Loyola’s administration is considering providing in-person classes for the fall semester through a hybrid of online and classroom learning, but didn’t provide further details when pressed by reporters.
In a May 29 email to the Loyola community, President Jo Ann Rooney said Loyola is considering two options for the fall semester — a hybrid of in-person and online classes or online only.
Loyola officials declined to answer questions about when a final decision about the fall semester will be made, how Loyola plans to de-densify dorms, which classes would be prioritized for in-person instruction and the current count of students and staff that have tested positive for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
According to the email, the hybrid approach is the “preferred scenario,” but it’s dependent on state and local health guidelines. Professors have been asked to prepare for online courses in case the public health situation makes in-person classes impossible.
In the hybrid model, Loyola would reduce the number of students in classrooms and residence halls while requiring social distancing, according to the email. For example classrooms that could previously seat 30 would be reduced to 10 and other rooms or conference spaces would be repurposed to fit larger classes.
Some students such as senior history and criminal justice major Nikola Kajmakoski said they would prefer in-person classes if it’s safe.
“It’s a risk, but if things are better I would feel more comfortable with hybrid or in-person classes,” the 21-year-old said.
Loyola also plans to limit occupancy of the residence halls and set aside a hall in case a student tests positive for COVID-19 according to the email. It’s unclear how Loyola plans to accommodate all on-campus students with limited capacity dorms.
Sophomore film and digital media major Dorien Perry-Tillmon said that while he’s open to different options, some of his film or production classes would be more effective in-person.
“If possible I’d like all in-person classes and ‘business as usual’ but that’s unlikely,” the 19-year-old said. “I’m open to hearing what’s possible, but I really want to go back.”
DePaul University recently announced it will have limited in-person classes and reduced dorm capacity for the fall semester. The statement said more classes than usual would be at least partially online.
Junior advertising and public relations and French double major Claire O’Malley said while it makes sense to not have all classes in-person, Loyola should prioritize upper level major classes to be in-person.
“Major classes should be in-person if possible, because we’re going to school specifically to take those classes,” the 20-year-old said. “It would be difficult to have worked and prepared for these higher level classes and then have to learn through a screen.”
O’Malley said she would consider dropping to part-time if they were all online because of concerns about the quality of courses and loss of experience. She would miss out on field trips, networking and the connection with professors if classes were solely online, O’Malley said.
“Interpersonal connection is a huge part of learning process and I love having a personal connection with the professor,” she said. “It’s why I chose this school and it would be a huge disappointment to lose that.”
Both Perry-Tillmon and Kajmakoski said they aren’t particularly concerned about learning online because their professors had adapted well to online teaching during the spring semester.
In a survey of Loyola students by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, two-thirds of the 4,300 respondents reported satisfaction with the quality of learning and engagement in the majority of their online classes during the spring semester.
The same survey found 80 percent of students reported that their physical or mental health interfered with their ability to engage in their online learning.
Having his freshman year cut short was difficult and people are looking forward to coming back because of the social connections on campus, Perry-Tillmon said.
“I would be willing to do whatever as long as we could at least be on campus for activities,” Perry-Tillmon said. “The main thing we’re missing is the community aspect.”
Perry-Tillmon acknowledged the difficulties Loyola would face opening up the dorms but said even online classes while living in the dorms would help keep people connected.
Approximately half of students surveyed reported their current living conditions impact their ability to fulfill class obligations either a moderate amount, somewhat or a great deal. Additional responsibilities at home, such as caregiving, were also interfering with class responsibilities for one-fourth of the respondents.
Kajmakoski said the uncertainty about classes for the fall semester also makes it difficult to plan things including an internship engaged learning requirement.
The wording of this story has been modified for clarity.