Olivet Nazarene University is looking forward to welcoming students back to campus for the fall semester! Although none of us can know what the future holds for sure, at Olivet, we know this – we are going to have a full University experience in fall 2020. We are working hard and are confident that whatever shape the academic and non-academic programs take, they will be the excellent, collegial and productive experiences that we all cherish.
Earlier this week, the Administrative Team approved a plan based on recommendations from the Fall Planning Steering Committee after reviewing a myriad of possible approaches for conducting academic instruction. In order to safely and effectively conduct on-ground learning, the University adjusted the academic calendar and announced three modalities of instruction that will be utilized for fall courses.
2020-21 Academic Year
In order to reduce overlap between seasonal flu and COVID-19, as well as to decrease the amount of travel during the semester where the virus is more likely to be picked up and brought back to campus, Olivet will begin school earlier than usual. Classes will begin on Monday, August 17, and the semester will end before the Thanksgiving holiday on Tuesday, November 24, to get as much on-ground schooling in as possible. In order to make this schedule work, there will be no fall break this year. While these changes will present challenges, adjusting the calendar prioritizes a safe and effective learning environment for students.
Our first and most important priority in crafting this plan was that of safety and wellbeing. Next, we considered our students want and expect an on-campus learning environment. The University wants to maximize on-ground classroom experiences to the extent that adequate classroom space can be found where students are safely meeting social distancing requirements.
Fall classes will fall into one of three categories:
1) Face-to-face classes
2) Hybrid (combines face-to-face and online) classes
3) Fully online classes
The first modality is that of full, in-person classroom experiences for as many courses as possible while honoring social distancing policies, assuming that doing so adheres with federal and state regulations. The Office of the Registrar is working to find larger spaces for classes – creatively using all sorts of spaces not typically used for classrooms. The University is developing details regarding safety protocols and procedures to ensure classroom workspaces are properly cleaned between classes, as well as developing ways of accommodating students who may become ill and unable to attend class.
The second modality will be in-person classroom with online components – a hybrid option. A class will only be in this format if the Registrar can’t find a space to safely conduct a full in-person classroom experience.
The third modality will be some limited online offerings. Some Olivet programs have already utilized limited online learning, so this is not entirely new even for on-campus students. These fully online classes will be designed more for upper division courses as the University feels it is especially important for new students to have on-ground classes. These will only be offered if the first two in-person modalities are not sufficient to accommodate all classes.
Olivet places great value on continuing to offer a traditional on-ground experience. The campus thrives on fostering community and catering to the holistic wellbeing of all students. The finer details regarding residential living options, chapel and social life activities are still being finalized and will be communicated to students, faculty and staff later this summer.
We recognize that our entire community is seeking certainty. Please understand that regardless of the modes of academic instruction for the fall semester, a few things are certain for Olivet:
• We hold as paramount the health, safety and welfare of every member of our community. Having said that, none of us can guarantee what shape COVID-19 will take, and no one – including Olivet – can guarantee a COVID-19-free environment.
• Taking steps to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections (or any other spread of disease) at Olivet is a shared responsibility. Every member of our community is expected to adhere to national, state, local, and University health guidelines and requirements. Specific details will be provided as circumstances dictate. This may include such things as: temperature checks, social distancing, wearing masks or other facial coverings, using other PPE, not reporting to class or work if sick, and isolating and quarantining when required.
Being adaptive with these significant changes may not be easy, but these new adjustments follow what the University feels must be done to deliver on the implicit promise of quality Christian education that we make to every student. We believe that making these changes will allow us to emerge stronger, more agile, more dynamic, and better prepared to meet our rapidly changing higher education landscape head on!