Returning students for the Fall 2020 semester are preparing for alternative class styles, new health and safety guidelines, and a different semester schedule at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Students like Katie Diamond, a rising sophomore, are still undecided as to whether they’ll return to classes or not.
UNC-CH currently plans to offer four different class options: Face-to-Face/Hybrid, HyFlex, Remote and recitation, and Remote only. Deans, department chairs, and professors are in charge of deciding which courses best fit each class style.
“I’m grateful that universities are allowing professors to make the decision about whether they want to be in class or not. But I think there was kind of false advertising in that the university made it seem like almost all our classes were going to be in person still and made it seem like it was really important to come back to school because classes were going to be in person. All my classes are online and almost everyone I know has classes that are entirely online,” said Diamond.
The Hybrid classes are courses that are designed to be in-person only with some remote elements. HyFlex classes are courses that meet with a percent of students in-person and a percent of students remotely. HyFlex classes may rotate students between in-person and remote lectures. Remote and recitation courses will include a remote lecture with a small, mandatory in-person recitation. Remote courses are fully online and will not require the student to come to campus.
“I wish the university would have been maybe more forthcoming about the chances of that or the professors would have emailed us privately and let us know that their classes were going to be online,” Diamond said.
In the classroom, new health and safety guidelines have been instituted to protect both the faculty and the students. Face masks will be required in the classroom. The space between the front row of desks and the instructor will be six feet at all times. However, some classes will have the option to allow students up to three feet from each other.
“I think it’s irresponsible for the school to allow students to be within three feet of one another, no matter the circumstances. I think it puts the health of everybody at risk,” Diamond said.
The travel-time between classes has been extended from 15 to 30 minutes, pushing back the start times of classes. A class that once would have started at 5:00 will now begin at 6:30 p.m. Additionally, classes after 6:10 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will be rescheduled.
“Honestly, [the new class schedule] didn’t affect me that much. I know there’s a lot of people who it did affect. One of my friends was going to take a class that was going to be later in the evening anyway, and now she thinks it may be pushed to a Saturday because they’re evening classes. But for me, I already had space between my classes,” Diamond said.
The Fall 2020 semester calendar will also be structured differently. The first day of classes is August 10, 2020. Final exams will be completed November 24 and students won’t return to campus after Thanksgiving break. The only school holidays will be Labor Day (September 7) and University Day (October 12). The school’s fall break is removed this year to prevent students from traveling and bring back COVID-19.
“I think this is definitely a tough situation,” Diamond said. “However, what I wish is that more schools, especially UNC during this time, had put the students as their first priority because, talking in my own experience and talking to parents and other students, we all feel as though the school has put the business aspect of the university as a priority over the students’ wellbeing and their experience.”