When Ohio was issued a stay-at-home order in March due to the coronavirus, schools and colleges were forced to alter their teaching styles. Traditional teaching options may not make an appearance, with college classes set to start in August.
At Defiance College, the fall semester gets underway on Aug. 24, with faculty giving the nod for a four-day school week.
“Unless there are drastic changes in our state or country related to the containment of COVID-19, Defiance College plans to resume face-to-face instruction this fall,” explained DC president Richanne Mankey. “DC’s 2020 fall semester will begin with evening and lab classes on Monday, Aug. 24, and with changes to its academic calendar and schedule.
“First, Defiance College faculty have approved a four-day school week,” she stated. “Classes will be held on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is kept free for students to fully participate in student teaching, internships and other field experiences due to anticipated physical distancing requirements on sites. Second, the college will be allowing students to remain at home after Thanksgiving break. Finals will be held in an online format to minimize exposure to COVID-19, as well as the seasonal flu. Students will then be expected to return to campus in January 2021 for continued face-to-face instruction.
Numerous safety measures will be in place for students and staff at DC.
“Defiance College is taking steps to ensure it is operating in compliance within guidelines from the CDC, the state of Ohio and the NCAA,” noted Mankey. “DC is taking a number of measures to ensure the safety of individuals on campus. Students will be required to do daily self-health checks, which include reporting temperatures and any COVID-19 symptoms. Faculty and staff will be required to report this information whenever they are on campus.
“Students will also be required to wear masks when in public spaces on campus. Faculty and staff will be required to wear masks while in public spaces on campus or while interacting with individuals in their offices or classrooms. Disinfection of high contact areas, including restrooms, classrooms, computer labs and shared shower facilities will occur at regular intervals throughout the day. Every effort is being made to ensure students on the same athletic teams are housed together to help reduce the number of social contacts.”
The president explained that Plexiglas barriers have been installed around reception desks where a large number of individuals will interact with staff on a regular basis. In addition, signs are in place to encourage physical distancing, wearing of masks, and the importance of hand washing and hand sanitizer.
Mankey noted, “Defiance is currently in the process of reconfiguring classrooms to reduce physical distancing. Students will be required to wear facial coverings/masks when they are in public spaces on campus. This includes while in a classroom or lab setting. Instructors will be required to wear a face covering while they are teaching a course.”
Mankey shared that course sections will now be split so that half of the students are in a class at any given time. The other half will be completing coursework online. She stressed that this more hybrid model will help position the college for success if another wave of COVID-19 forces face-to-face instruction to be temporarily suspended.
In addition, any gathering that exceeds the capacity limit put in place by the state of Ohio will not be allowed on campus. Athletics decisions are being discussed at the conference level and will be forthcoming, she stated.
One might possibly expect lower enrollment in the fall due to the pandemic, but that isn’t the case in Defiance.
“Currently, Defiance College enrollment is tracking at least 25% higher than last year,” said Mankey. “This is a testament to our Defiance College community even as many national crises continue to unfold. Defiance College staff and coaches continue to contact prospective students to share its plans and guidelines for student safety in the current COVID-19 situation.”
What is the college doing to keep students from losing momentum in earning their degrees?
“Defiance College faculty and staff continue to engage students in a remote manner, just as they did the last half of spring semester,” said the president. “Examples of Defiance’s student commitment is seen in a new series of summer engagement activities. Topics will range from meditation and fitness challenges, to the current national crises of COVID-19 and racism.”
Mankey stressed the importance of earning a college degree, which “typically results in at least $1 million earnings over a lifetime as compared with high school graduates.”
She cited a May 14 post from economist Eliot Eisenberg, noting that there is also more likelihood of job security. “ ‘The unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma is now a staggering 21.2%, up from just 5.2% at the end of 2019. For those with a high school diploma, the respective numbers are 17.2%, up from 3.7% in December 2019. For those with some college, the numbers are 15% and 2.7%. For employees with a bachelor’s (degree), the unemployment rate is 8.4%, up from 1.9% in December 2019. Get an education!’ “
Mankey added that the stresses of “sheltering in home” and learning remotely were apparent.
“DC’s faculty and staff addressed students through communications with helpful hints about being physically distant without being socially distant,” she said. “This will continue over the summer and fall semester as classes get underway.”