Beloit College adjusts academic calendar, provides model for other institutions to consider because of coronavirus fears

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Beloit College has established a 2020-21 academic year calendar that might be valuable for other institutions to consider.

Recognizing that a typical semester can’t be promised, the provost first considered 3-1/2 week modules, which meant that faculty would have taught one class at a time. According to the Chronicle, the committee examining various options rejected that idea but agreed to

…a later start date and two seven-week modules instead of a full semester. That way, if the college needed to move everyone online either early or late in the fall, it could do so with fewer disruptions. The deal was ratified and publicly rolled out within two weeks, giving Beloit a leg up at a time when families are struggling to make sense of what the next academic year will look like.

The Beloit Action Plan means students will take two classes at a time. Intensive mentoring and rich discussion about careers are included. And there’s a promise to not increase tuition.

The college’s leadership has made public a plan that other institutions might consider. I recognize that at many institutions, students take more than four classes in a semester; I don’t pretend to have a solution for that. I also accept that any one-size-fits-all plan might be impractical. Nevertheless, the transparency and honesty associated with this plan is admirable.

We know as the spring term winds down, college and university leaders are focusing on what can be done with the fall. An important marker of their thinking can be found in survey data collected by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Among the findings:

58% are considering or have already decided to remain fully online for fall 2020

62% are considering decreasing, or have decreased, the number of in-person courses for fall 2020

73% are considering increasing, or have increased, the number of online and/or remote courses for fall 2020

Flexibility and contingency planning are mandatory right now. No matter the position we hold at our institutions, creative ideas must be offered in the spirit of doing what’s best. Beloit’s Action Plan might not fit where you are, but normal operations in the fall aren’t guaranteed.

Let’s think positively, openly and creatively about how we deliver instruction to our students.

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