A Hybrid Approach


College courses will be a mix of in-person and online learning

Education in the age of COVID is nothing short of tricky. Thrust into a sudden online academic model, colleges across Long Island pivoted to continue their courses under unprecedented circumstances.
“Before COVID, 90 percent of our learning was done in-person so it was a very big change,” Michael R. DiBartolomeo, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Thomas Aquinas College, said. “We left campus on March 13 and immediately switched to online learning and we had virtual hours available for the rest of the semester. We pivoted quickly. Since then, we have been able to take a breath to reassess moving forward.”

St. Thomas Aquinas College will resume classes on Sept. 8. But it will look a lot different than previous years. The libraries and campus quad will remain largely empty as the school will be offering a hybrid approach to higher education — at least for the foreseeable future. DiBartolomeo said the college will begin by offering a mix of online and in-person classes, with face-to-face learning priority given to students of the arts and science, who require hands-on laboratory classes to graduate. All other classes will remain online, with the exception of freshman students who will be able to attend school on campus.
“We want our first-year students to meet their faculty and make connections with all the proper social distancing in place,” he said. “We will reassess after a few weeks to see where we are at with the virus and the Department of Health. It will be a phased approach.”

A phased approach is also being implemented at Molloy College in Rockville Centre and St. Joseph’s College, with campuses in Patchogue and Brooklyn. All of the colleges have spent the summer devising plans for classes, as well as conducting extensive in-depth cleaning and adding campus-wide signage outlining safety protocols.
Similarly to St. Thomas Aquinas College, Molloy and SJC pivoted to a fully online learning experience when COVID first swept New York in March. Since each school formed their own respective task forces to identify strategies for a fall reopening. A combination of learning styles is the winning option.
St. Joseph’s College (SJC), which is resuming classes on Sept. 9, will offer a combination of remote, hybrid, in person and online courses with roughly 20 to 30 percent of classes being held on-site to start. The remote option involves students meeting with faculty members and classmates at regularly scheduled times, typically using Zoom or a similar video conferencing platform, with the courses built around the Canvas learning management system.

The hybrid option combines the remote option with an in person component. Students will come to campus for a class for half of the course sessions and the other half of instruction/interaction would take place remotely. An example of this would be for a class that normally meets on Mondays and Wednesdays — with half of the classes coming to campus on Mondays and the other half coming on Wednesdays — with the remainder of the instruction/interactions taking place remotely. Students taking a class with the in person option would come to campus in the same manner that they would during a normal semester.
SJC will also offer a full complement of online courses. The difference between this option and the remote option is that these courses are offered in an “asynchronous” manner, meaning that class activities are not tied to a set schedule and that students and faculty would not be interacting with each other in real-time as they would with the remote option.

Prior to the start of the semester, students will be provided with a schedule of classes that indicates which courses will be offered in which modalities. They will then have the opportunity to adjust their schedules accordingly. The college will be opening up in-person classes to students who require labs, as well as to the incoming freshman class.
“One advantage is that we’ve now had several months to prepare for the fall semester,” Donald Boomgaarten, president of St. Joseph’s College, said. “We are optimistic about the year.”

Molloy College, which begins its semester on Sept. 8, will also be offering a combination of in-person, HyFlex/hybrid and online classes with about 25 percent of the student body returning for in-person classes. The start of classes marks the first fall semester of the college’s new president, Dr. James P. Lentini, who most recently served as Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan.
“Our plan offers the best of both worlds,” Lentini said. “We are very prepared for the fall semester. The faculty has been working on their remote delivery and taking extra training. We have also enhanced the technology so we’re ready to provide a high-quality experience whether we are in-person or remote.”

                           Molloy College President Jim Lentini touring the campus, with rising senior Jack Ryan.
                           (Courtesy of Molloy College)

Classes will be held in a variety of formats, including in person. Molloy’s Hybrid Flexible (HyFlex) model consists of online and face-to-face instruction in a flexible manner. The hybrid model will have some online meetings and some synchronous face-to-face meetings in a classroom (or in the case of a lab or clinical component, at off-site locations), at designated times. Online synchronous courses will be online with all or some of the meetings at a designated time. And, online asynchronous will be online and weekly participation is required but there is no established meeting time.

On Campus Housing

In addition to navigating course formatting, SJC, Molloy and St. Thomas are also reopening residence halls under new safety guidelines.
“We will be de-densifying the residents’ halls so there are not too many people there at a time,” DiBartolomeo said.

SJC’s St. George Towers in Brooklyn will offer student housing with roommates being designated as “family units.” New protocols that will be put into effect to combat the spread of coronavirus, including, but not limited to, mandatory face coverings in all buildings, contactless temperature checks and frequent sanitizing of high touch areas and disinfection of on-and off-campus college facilities. The Patchogue location doesn’t offer on-campus housing.
Molloy will also welcome students to live on-campus in the college’s three residence halls in single and double rooms, eliminating triples to reduce the amount of student-to-student contact. Additionally, increased signage in all residence halls will address social distancing guidelines, face coverings in public spaces, and handwashing and disinfecting.

Rooms will be vacated on Nov. 24, at the start of the Thanksgiving break, and room and board costs will be pro-rated to reflect this reduction of time in the residence halls.
Both SJC and Molloy have implemented a school-wide tuition freeze for all current and incoming students. The freeze locks-in tuition at the previous school year’s rates.
“I am excited to begin my first fall semester at Molloy,” Lentini said. “In addition to our emphasis on the safety of the Molloy community, I am also pleased that our tuition freeze means that students will not see any increase from our 2019 levels. This is an important step for our students and their families, given that many of them have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent economic hardships.”

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