As college students finished up the spring semester online, they are now wondering what their future schooling will look like. Mercer University just announced it’ll be open for in-person classes in the fall, with safety precautions in place across campus and rigorous COVID-19 testing. So far, other universities have yet to make decisive announcements, though most are planning for potential in-person classes, albeit with the possibility the situation could change.
Greg Trevor, executive director of media communications for the University of Georgia, said that UGA has established a series of working groups to begin preparing for a smooth transition to full operations in the fall. The groups involve about 140 faculty and staff and are led by senior administrators. “The planning process is ongoing, so it would be premature to speculate about the fall semester,” Trevor said. “However, we anticipate operating a relatively normal fall schedule with in-person classes.”
Georgia State University is delivering exclusively online classes throughout the summer and expects needing to at least partially continue online in the fall. In a statement by Wendy Hensel, GSU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said it’s possible a “substantial portion” of fall courses will be offered online as the ability to gather in groups may continue to be limited.
“While much is uncertain, one thing has become clear. From this point forward, faculty need to be trained for and skilled in online pedagogy in order to meet their professional obligations,” Hensel said in the statement. “It is no longer possible to be exclusively an ‘in person’ or ‘online’ instructor. All teaching faculty should be able to deliver content in a highly effective manner in both modalities.” To achieve this goal, she said GSU is building a central infrastructure and support system and providing a series of training opportunities for faculty.
Kennesaw State University also is only offering online classes during the summer and is planning for potential face-to-face fall courses, though new student orientation will be online, according to its website.
Emory University President Claire E. Sterk, along with other high-level administration, issued a statement promising an update by June 15. “We plan for what we hope will be an in-person instruction, albeit with many important adaptations and protections in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the statement said. “While we would like to share with you a definitive decision about our status for the fall, we are simply not yet prepared to do so and likely cannot for some weeks.”
For students, the transition to online learning hasn’t been simple. “We had to rely on GroupMe to ask other classmates questions and professors would take a while to get back on email,” KSU student Julie Budd said. She added that it was difficult for professors to rapidly move their courses online. “Videos and PowerPoints are just not cutting it.”
For many Jewish students, Hillel is an important aspect of their college experience, and Hillels of Georgia CEO Elliot Karp emphasized that Hillel has been offering a large number of opportunities online. “It was seamless. Everything we were doing in person on campus went virtual,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say we did not miss a beat.”
Hillel’s virtual offerings include a variety of content, from Jewish study sessions to yoga workshops and challah baking, as well as individual counseling with Hillel staff. Karp said the organization has engaged 1,000 to 1,500 students during the quarantine.
Each Hillel will have to respond to how their universities decide to open in the fall, so the organization is planning for all potential scenarios. “The key watchwords for us at Hillels of Georgia is that we must be adaptable and flexible. All of the planning we are doing today may not apply tomorrow,” Karp said.
Hillel received an encouraging response from students who want to engage with Hillel even when they can’t be on campus, he said. “It’s heartwarming to see. Even though we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, they see the importance and value of Hillel.”