Longwood has said it’s committed to returning to in-person learning in the fall. Does that mean in classrooms on campus?
Yes, it does. Part of what makes Longwood special is a commitment to faculty-student interaction. Our faculty have put forward a tremendous effort this spring to complete classes, but that is not the traditional residential experience we pride ourselves in giving to students. Classroom learning really matters, and we’re working on the best way to return to something closer to normal while taking steps to be careful, flexible, and in line with public health guidelines.
What might those steps look like?
Those steps are still in the process of development. We are gathering input from faculty and analyzing a lot of data right now. We have an advantage over some other places because we both generally enjoy smaller class sizes, and we have space on campus to spread out. Longwood has always had very few large lecture courses. When we rolled out our Civitae Core Curriculum two years ago, we intentionally reduced some of our larger class sizes to no more than 25. Meanwhile, we have an additional 42,000 square feet of academic space coming online in the fall with a new building, giving us additional classroom space and flexibility. We are also considering course delivery options that could accommodate at-risk faculty and students.
Classroom learning really matters, and we’re working on the best way to return to something closer to normal while taking steps to be careful, flexible, and in line with public health guidelines.Provost Larissa Smith Tweet This
Are these steps going to prevent any and all transmission of COVID-19?
We have to presume COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time. We are planning prudent but manageable steps that will help deter transmission while preserving the most important elements of the college experience. We are looking at everything from cleaning to dining to rethinking the setup of public events. Classrooms and course delivery are of course central to this planning.
It is important that we put our role as citizen leaders into practice. A big part of that is to follow the guidance of public health professionals, particularly with regard to higher-risk populations. Our discussions about design and delivery are focused on aspects such as this. As those plans come into focus, Longwood will be communicating more about them over the summer.
What if classes have to go fully online again?
We plan to operate safely in the fall under the assumption that COVID-19 hasn’t been eradicated. We know that a fully online semester is not why undergraduate students choose Longwood. We take extraordinary pride in the residential experience we offer students, so moving to a fully online semester would be a last resort. However, we do expect that we will rely more on our classroom technology and learning software to promote safe practices and flexibility. We are working to implement ideas that follow public health guidelines while maintaining the valued Longwood experience to the extent that we can.
Our outstanding faculty and staff are committed to a quality residential experience for our students, and their creativity and dedication is a key part of why we will succeed.Provost Larissa Smith Tweet This
What if students need to self-isolate or miss class?
It’s important that we figure out ways to handle class absences for COVID-19-related reasons. We need to make sure that students know that if they need to miss class to be safe, they will be able to continue to make progress. We are exploring recording options for classes so that even if it’s not the ideal way, a student will nonetheless be able to keep up with their academic work. It’s also important to provide options for faculty should they need to miss class.
Every college is wrestling with this. What makes you confident Longwood is well positioned to do this?
Our outstanding faculty and staff are committed to a quality residential experience for our students, and their creativity and dedication is a key part of why we will succeed. The task force working on recommended plans is seeking input from all areas of the campus community. Moreover, Longwood’s size and setting enable us to be more nimble in making necessary adjustments. Our goal is to have students return to campus life and remain safe, with some options available to us if we have to respond to changes in public health.