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University Of Akron Will Use Hybrid Learning Model For Fall Semester

Signage around campus will aim to reduce traffic and possible spread of COVID-19. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
A pillar at University of Akron with "U A" on the side and a map of the campus.

The University of Akron will rely primarily on remote learning this fall semester, with limited in-person sessions and reduced class sizes.

The university has offered training throughout the summer for faculty to prep for the transition, said interim Senior Vice Provost Joe Urgo. That includes recorded lectures and live presentations that will keep students engaged.

“In some ways, it opens up a whole new world of access for student learning,” Urgo said. “On the other hand, there’s a lot of sense of loss without that personal, face-to-face interaction, so we’ve tried to incorporate that whenever we can.”

Some class sessions will be synchronous, with students attending live video calls, Urgo said, while others will be recorded and can be viewed on the students’ schedule.

“Students can see them at their own pace, go back and look at things,” he said.

Faculty are considering at ways to assess student learning outside of traditional midterm and final exams, Urgo said, though the university has purchased software to reduce cheating during remote tests.

Just 10 percent of classes will be conducted fully in-person, Urgo said, while another 50 to 60 percent will be mostly online and mixing in a few in-person sessions as needed. The remaining classes will be fully remote, Urgo said.

“By and large, I think there’s generally knowledge that we’re doing whatever we can despite the virus to make this a safe environment,” Urgo said.

Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots will be available for students who do not have the necessary technology to connect to remote classes, Urgo said.

In-person classes will be reduced to 25 percent capacity to limit risk, Urgo said. Signage around campus will limit traffic to one-way in certain stairways and hallways. Traffic measures are in place to reduce bottlenecks in doorways before and after class, Urgo said.

Time will be set aside at the beginning and end of class for students to wipe down workspaces with supplies provided in each classroom and custodial staff will clean buildings on campus more regularly, he said.

“It’s probably inevitable that we’ll have some testing of positive cases, the statistical data would suggest that,” Urgo said. “But we’re prepared for that.”

The university, which is already under a serious financial crunch, has applied for federal funds to assist in covering increased costs brought on by COVID-19, including testing for the virus, Urgo said.

Students living on campus will be placed in single dorms by default, Urgo said, unless they request roommates and sign a health waiver.

“A lot of students really want that residential experience, so we’ve had no trouble filling up the dorms at capacity,” Urgo said. “We’ve got a separate building set aside for quarantine students who may become ill during the semester or test positive.”