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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Remote learning at Loyola: a recap of the university’s town hall for first-year students

Remote learning at Loyola: a recap of the universitys town hall for first-year students

On Aug. 17, first-year students and their families were invited to a virtual Town Hall addressing the upcoming, remote Loyola experience. The meeting, held via Zoom and hosted by vice president Terry Sawyer, was centered around questions regarding tuition, refunds, virtual class structures, the potential of an in-person spring semester, and aspects of the Loyola education that are unique to first-years, such as Messina. Among the presenters was Loyola’s president, Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., and other representatives of the University.

Sawyer also referenced myriad comments made on Facebook and assured viewers that Loyola did not take the decision to close lightly. According to the vice president, the decision was also not fueled by finances, but rather by the wellness of Loyola’s students. He said:

“Our responsibility is to the overall care of our students’ mind, body, and spirit, and with the data that was presented at the eleventh hour, we just couldn’t get over that hump.”

He went on to acknowledge the decisions made by nearby universities as well, such as Johns Hopkins University

The following is a summary of some of the questions and answers that were shared.

Why isn’t Loyola lowering its tuition? 

“Loyola is sort of an outlier in contemporary higher education in that the vast majority of our faculty are full-time, we don’t rely heavily on per course adjuncts… our largest expense is instruction, obviously, and that expense has not gone down, but in fact has gone up as a result of the coronavirus,” Linnane said.

The president also explained that investments have been made in technology, which have caused instructional costs to increase. He emphasized the value of a Loyola education, citing that, “statistics show, surveys show, that our students graduating from Loyola, in the midst of their career, are at the highest salary level.”

What will my Messina experience be like during remote learning? 

“Messina is going to have weekly, often synchronous opportunities for you to connect with your peers, a faculty member, with administrators, and with other student leaders,” Christina Spearman, dean of students, said. 

Spearman explained that Evergreens and Messina advisors will meet with first-year students in groups, as well as in one-on-one settings, via Zoom. There will also be events for students and their families to participate in throughout the semester that can be accessed at designated times or through recordings.  

How will first-year students connect with other students and the Loyola community? 

Beth Steiner, director of student activities, explained that students will have opportunities to connect via the virtual Fall Welcome Weekend, at meetings with their Messina groups, and during planned virtual activities. Events such as paint nights and yoga sessions will be created and shared virtually for students to follow. These activities will be held on Friday and Saturday nights, and students will receive emails about them. In addition, an activities fair will be held virtually in September, giving students an opportunity to join clubs and learn about leadership opportunities available to first-years. She also mentioned a “surprise celebrity Q&A” being held in September, and encouraged viewers to follow Loyola’s various social media accounts. 

Raven Williams, director of African, Latinx, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) services, also shared opportunities for students to get involved. 

“We definitely have a plethora of events as well as programs and services that are planned for students, and particularly first-year students, for the fall semester,” Williams said. From celebrations, to workshops, to the ALANA Mentoring Program, first-years will have many opportunities to connect. She encouraged students to visit the ALANA website.

What will need to happen to bring students to campus in January?

“It’s not one thing. We are committed to bringing you back… some things are out of our control,” Sawyer said.

He explained that he and his fellow faculty members remain hopeful about an in-person spring semester. 

Will there be an in-person orientation in January?

“We definitely will do that in January. When you move in, we will have some programming both in terms of content sessions, but also some programmings in the evening, late-night programmings. We will have a staggered move-in so not all students will arrive on the same day, but when they do arrive they don’t have to wait around in their rooms all day,” vice president Donelda Cook said. She also mentioned the social distancing and safety measures that will be enforced.

What is it like to take classes online at Loyola, and what kind of technology do you use?

According to provost Amanda Thomas, moving online does not deprioritize the quality of Loyola’s education. The average class size is 20-35 students, with few classes allowing more than 40. Messina courses hold 16 participants. Depending on the professor, classes can be synchronous or asynchronous. Common platforms utilized include Moodle, Zoom, and Panopto, the last of which is often used to record lectures. Thomas highlighted the benefits of recorded lectures, noting that the technology enables students to review concepts multiple times to better understand the material. 

Thomas later explained that all professors are required to hold office hours, which will be listed on their syllabus. Syllabi will be available via Moodle on Aug. 24. Many resources, including The Study, the Writing Center, and the library will also be available virtually. 

What will labs and fine arts classes be like?

Much of this depends on the professor and course. Dean of Loyola College, Stephen Fowl, explained that engineering students will use a lot of simulation software, while many biology classes have developed lab kits that will be sent home. Many chemistry and physics courses will tend to have virtual presentations with data to analyze. Math and computer science departments will conduct coursework online, but will also utilize whiteboards and small group collaboration.

Are Zoom meetings required? What if I miss one?

Associate dean Cindy Moore explained that Zoom meetings will vary based on the professor. However, meetings will not be longer than their allotted time. Should a student have any issues attending a Zoom meeting, be it technological or otherwise, it is best to discuss with the course professor.

Dean of undergraduate and graduate studies, Elissa Derrickson, later acknowledged students in different time zones. She said: 

“We will contact your professors. For us to be able to contact your professors, please let us know,” at [email protected].  

Will roommate assignments remain the same for spring?

“Yes. Start contacting each other; build that virtual relationship,” Spearman said. 

Am I able to get a refund for room and board instead of a credit? Is there a deadline to withdraw and receive a full refund?

“The office of student administrative services is working this week to analyze accounts and send refunds home for families that did pay room and board expenses prior to the announcement of the fall semester going remote. We will also work at the beginning of the semester, as we always do, for any students that have received financial aid and have received financial aid above and beyond their billable charges for their cost of attendance which can be used for personal items related to school,” executive director Mike Mansfield said. 

Mansfield explained that by contacting the office of undergraduate studies and withdrawing prior to the first day of school, all tuition fees will be refunded. Once the semester begins, there is a prorated refund schedule that goes five weeks into the beginning of the semester. 

Is deferral a possibility, and what is the deadline?

Vice president for enrollment management, Eric Nichols, explained that deferral is possible and the deadline to request a deferral is Aug. 24. Detailed information about the process can be found on the Undergraduate Admission site under the admission policy page

Can a student still have a work-study or direct hire job?

Nichols explained it is possible, but only jobs that can be completed remotely can receive payment. Available opportunities will be listed on the student employment page

Will there be an opportunity to adjust the requested loan amount?

According to Nichols, a request for adjustment can be made, whether it be an increase or decrease. Requests can be made through loan specialist Renata Bass, who can be reached at [email protected].  

If students decide to take a gap year, will their scholarships still be in place come the following year?

“If students are deferring, part of the deferral agreement is that their merit award will carry forward to the subsequent term that they move their enrollment to. If a student is applying for need-based aid, students need to reapply for that the next year because their financial circumstances may have changed,” Nichols said.

Will Mass continue online or resume in person?

Vice president Rob Kelly explained that Mass will continue to be live-streamed via Zoom and students will have the opportunity to be involved. Those interested should contact Campus Ministry at [email protected]

Closing remarks

At the close of the Town Hall, Linnane said:

“We look forward to seeing you at some point in the future, and I look forward to engaging you through the online format as the school year begins, and as it continues. I remain convinced that our decision, as difficult as it is and as painful as it is, not to resume classes in person was the right one, and is the right one for each of one of you. But nevertheless, we will continue to advance the progress toward your degree, which is ultimately the prize that matters,” Linnane said. 

For more on remote learning at Loyola, keep up-to-date with The Greyhound.

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Remote learning at Loyola: a recap of the university’s town hall for first-year students