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Recapping the Online Experience Town Hall: What to expect in spring 2021


On Nov. 4, students were invited to a virtual town hall discussion about their online learning experiences. Hosted via Zoom by Braya Markley ‘23, speakers from Loyola answered questions submitted earlier in the week, in addition to questions asked during the event. 

Multiple community members, including Amanda Thomas, provost and vice president of academic affairs, and Cindy Moore, professor of writing and associate dean, were in attendance. 

Here are a few questions and answers that were covered during the event. 

Is Loyola considering Pass/Fail grading for the Fall 2020 semester? 

“The Fall semester was designed to be a fully online learning experience, and everyone knew that we’d be online before classes started,” Thomas said. “We are in a much different place than we were in the spring.” 

For these reasons, Loyola is not considering Pass/Fail grading this semester. Another important aspect of this decision has to do with students’ post-graduation plans.  

“When making this decision, we had to consider the importance of a grade for a later career or graduate school opportunity,” Thomas said. 

Will Loyola allow take-home finals in place of regular exams? 

“The format of any final assessment including traditional final exams is up to the professor,” Moore said.

While professors get to decide the format of their exams, Thomas, Dr. Stephen Fowl, dean of Loyola College, and Dr. Joshua Smith, dean of the School of Education, suggested that professors consider alternatives to traditional exams which include but are not limited to take-home exams. 

Is there a system in place to ensure that due-dates are not on the same day?

“Traditional final exams must be given during the two-week final exam period published on the records website,” Moore said. 

However, professors have more leeway with deadlines if they choose to use an alternative form of assessment. 

“Due dates for alternative assignments [such as projects, presentations, and portfolios] are set by individual faculty members. However, these cannot be due [if they’re replacing final exams] before the scheduled exam day or time, including the study day on Dec. 10.”

Moore also made it clear that students should notify their professors if they have several end-of-term projects due on the same day. This can only happen if those projects are not taking the place of traditional exams. 

How will online learning continue in the upcoming spring semester?

“We expect that no more than 25% of undergraduate courses will be offered fully online,” Moore said. “In hybrid sessions, students should expect 1 session per week to occur in a physical classroom.”

Additionally, all undergraduate students will be given the option of remote learning in the Spring. Earlier this week, students received a final communication about remote learning, and they are asked to submit that form as soon as possible. 

“About 96 people so far say that they want to be remote [in the Spring],” Dr. Elissa Derrickson, dean of Undergraduate and Graduate studies, said. “If you want to be remote, share this information with your professors so they can get any supplies to you before the semester starts.” 

If I stay at home next semester, how will online learning work for me?

“You can take all of your Loyola classes remotely,” Moore said. “You will be able to join your in-person live classes virtually, and you will participate synchronously for the online portion of the course. 

What will study spaces and classrooms look like in the Spring?

“We will start the process of designating classroom spaces for quiet study soon,” Moore said. “Students must social distance and wear face masks in these spaces.” 

What will coronavirus testing look like in the Spring?

“We will share a number of updates related to coronavirus testing later this month,” Dr. Christina Spearman, dean of students, said. “Surveillance will include students who live off-campus, and a certain percentage of students will be tested each week.” 

How will we support each other in staying safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19? 

“Students can support each other by wearing face coverings, abiding by guest policies, and taking part in low-risk gatherings,” Spearman said. “There will be a full slate of social programs for the Spring, and we will revise our policy for leaving campus as conditions change.”

The Loyola experience will be different in the Spring, but there will be important opportunities to gather in lower risk situations and support the many local businesses in Baltimore. 

Bars are one high-risk situation that all Loyola students will be asked to avoid this Spring.  

How will Loyola support the mental health and wellness of students during the spring semester?

“As Loyola reopens in the spring, we will continue to provide opportunities for community and connection,” Spearman said. 

“Campus will feel different in the Spring, and all of us will need to establish a new normal,” Spearman said. “The counseling center continues to provide support for students through virtual workshops and support groups. There are also ministry opportunities for connection, and community.” 

Continue following Loyola’s Coronavirus Updates page and The Greyhound for more information and developments.

Featured Image courtesy of Margaret Wroblewski via Flickr Creative Commons

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Recapping the Online Experience Town Hall: What to expect in spring 2021