Smaller in-person classes, hybrid courses possible for ASU come Fall 2020

Whether they occur in-person or remotely due to COVID-19, ASU, UA, NAU and GCU have no plans to postpone fall classes

ASU will have classes and will continue research this fall, though the learning format is still in question, the University confirmed Monday. 

"Because the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we are working through all possible scenarios for fall 2020," said ASU spokesperson Katie Paquet, in a statement. "Regardless of the circumstances ahead, ASU will continue to be fully functional, providing the complete range of educational resources one would expect to receive at a world-class research university." 

Mark Searle, executive vice president and University provost at ASU, discussed possible ways classes could resume in August at a University Senate meeting on Monday but added that it was too early to make final decisions for the upcoming school year.

“We don’t know what mode we’ll be teaching in the fall,” Searle said. “But we will be working on that and hope to have something solved in a reasonably short period of time.”

Holding in-person classes of 30 students or less and hosting larger lectures over Zoom as a means to ensure physical distancing were among suggestions Searle gave to the Senate.

Hybrid classes could also be a possibility, as professors could also teach half of their class in-person while the rest attend virtually. Searle also mentioned the possibility of classes beginning at a different date.

“We want faculty to be creative in how they do this,” Searle said. “We’re not putting these out as prescriptions but as different ways faculty can optimize student learning.”

More will be discussed in a University Senate meeting with President Michael Crow on May 4 at 1:30 p.m.

The confirmation that ASU will have classes comes after some universities around the U.S. are considering pushing back fall start dates if social distancing requirements are extended through August or September.

Boston University, for example, said it hopes to open in the fall if able but laid out a plan to delay starting classes until January 2021 if necessary. Harvard was also considering a delay at one point but announced Monday that the university would open by fall. 

"(The plan) is designed to expedite decision-making and allow us to put a plan for the fall in place fairly quickly, so we have time to implement that plan in a thoughtful manner," said Jean Morrison, BU university provost and chief academic officer, in a statement. 

In Arizona, UA, NAU and GCU plan on having classes in the fall but remain unsure of what exactly that will look like. 

"While we do not yet know all the details, there will be school this fall," said an announcement on UA's coronavirus page

UA also promised to provide more information about a possible return to campus by May 4 and said it will "share further plans as soon as we know them, and we hope to have a decision two months prior to the start of classes in the fall."

Additionally, UA President Robert Robbins announced a series of furloughs in response to large losses in revenue due to the coronavirus. 

NAU President Rita Cheng said in a statement that NAU plans for and is focused on "normal operations in the fall, including offering full services at our mountain campus and in-person delivery of classes." 

"We also will continue to plan and be prepared for a variety of alternate education delivery scenarios following the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and direction from our state government,” Cheng's statement said. 

GCU spokesperson Bob Romantic said in an email that "classes will take place in the fall at GCU."

"We continue to pray that the coronavirus pandemic will have subsided and we are able to welcome students back in the same way we always have – with the excitement of Welcome Week and all of the spirited Move-In activities that entails," Romantic said. 

But, if a fall return is not possible, Romantic said GCU is "planning for a number of other scenarios that we can implement if necessary."

GCU said its priorities will be the safety of its students, faculty and staff, as well as "ensuring that all students – those beginning their academic careers and those who are returning – are able to take classes this fall regardless of the  COVID-19 situation and continue on the path toward completing their degrees."

Some universities have pledged to start classes in-person and on schedule, if permitted by the government. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels told the Lafayette Journal & Courier the coronavirus “poses close to zero lethal threat” to students, and the university will open as planned unless told otherwise. 

Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, wrote in the New York Times that "the reopening of college and university campuses in the fall should be a national priority."

Editor Vandana Ravikumar and reporter Erin Galindo contributed to this report.


Reach the reporter at ajhowar6@asu.edu and follow @andrew_howard4 on Twitter.

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