Colleges and universities are preparing for a semester unlike any other.
For many, the welcome back won’t be to campus — but to computers. Specifically, the online courses being offered as higher education adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After an abrupt move to online learning in the spring, universities and colleges had the summer to prepare for the fall semester. Classes begin on Monday, Aug. 24 for Loyola University, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and the College of DuPage.
David Slavsky, the vice provost and director of the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Loyola University, said they began preparing in the spring for online classes in the fall.
“We made the assumption — that’s turning out to be a good one — in May, that there’s a high likelihood that we would have to teach all of our classes online this fall,” Slavsky said.
The three universities will all require face coverings and social distancing. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will require anyone on campus to get tested for COVID-19 twice every week using its saliva-based test.
“Anybody who doesn’t need to be there is being asked to continue working remotely,” said Robin Neal Kaler, associate chancellor for public affairs at UIUC.
At the College of DuPage, people will be screened as they enter buildings. They’ll be asked questions about possible exposure to the virus and have their temperature taken. Hallway and classrooms have also been set up to maintain social distancing.
“It will be a bit of a different semester,” said Brian Caputo, president of the College of DuPage.
Last week, Loyola University announced that it would not open its residence halls during the fall semester.
“We’ve been monitoring, as I’m sure every college and university in America has been, very closely the data about the COVID crisis, we’ve been reading all of the literature and following the numbers,” Slavsky said.
Since opening registration in June, the daily number of coronavirus cases and deaths have drastically increased, which is why Loyola decided not to open its residence halls.
The schools are also working to support students who aren’t returning to campus. UIUC’s international students are able to take courses online, even if they can’t make it to the U.S. Students in China are also able to study at a university.
“We have a lot of students from China and we have an agreement with ZJU University so our business, our engineering and some of our liberal arts students who can get here from China will actually go and study with our faculty on site there,” Kealer said. “So they will actually still have an in-person experience, just somewhere else.