A closer look at UTA's planned mix of online, hybrid and in-person instruction for the fall semester

The UTA tower sits under the night sky June 24 on the corner of UTA Boulevard and Cooper Street in Arlington.

When the decision came to determine which classes would be in-person, online or hybrid for the fall semester, Pranesh Aswath, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said it was a choice within individual programs rather than a centralized decision.

By the directive of UT System Chancellor James Milliken, academic institutions worked to ensure a good experience for students in the fall. UTA surveyed students and faculty via email to get their perspective on the fall return.

According to the Fall Academic and Course Planning Task Force report, 42% of faculty members and 38% of students who responded to surveys favored online-only instruction. 32% of faculty members and 28% of students preferred or felt safe with in-person instruction.

The task force reached out to associate deans and department chairs to work with faculty to assess the needs of different programs and course formats, Aswath said.

Some courses are more difficult to teach online than others, he said. Studio instruction, such as glassblowing, requires a physical presence on campus because of its interactive component.

If a student is registered for an in-person class in the fall, and they wish to take an online course instead, Aswath advises students to talk to their advisers to discuss available options. For some classes, students may have to wait a semester to take the course if it requires them to attend in-person instruction.

Students who have already registered for courses still have their original schedules in MyMav. The only difference will be whether those courses will be online, in-person or hybrid, Aswath said.

There are two types of online courses: synchronous and asynchronous. Online synchronous means that all instruction and testing have a scheduled date and time. Online asynchronous means instruction is recorded but testing may still happen at a scheduled time.

Face-to-face instruction requires students to come to campus for instruction. Classrooms will allow for social distancing, and face masks are required while in class.

Hybrid classes combine online and face-to-face instruction. Students may be required to come to campus one or more days a week or rotate days on campus. Face-to-face exams and presentations may also be required.

If a hybrid class is held three times a week, students would only physically come to class one of those days, Aswath said.

“What we are doing now is to make sure that the schedule doesn’t change. We’re changing modality of the classes to hybrid, for example, to make sure we can still accommodate a student,” Aswath said in regard to reducing class sizes.

On June 16 the university released a master list of fall semester classes, detailing which format each course will be taught in.

The format of midterm exams will depend from class to class and should be outlined in the course syllabus, Aswath said. After Thanksgiving break, all instruction and final exams will move online.

Aswath said the decision to move all classes online after Thanksgiving break was made so students who visited people over the break wouldn’t come back and create virus hotspots on campus.

“We wanted to give as good of a university type experience to students but at the same time wanted to make sure that it was in a way that was safe and deliberate to make sure that we minimize the risk,” he said.

Obtaining health and safety on campus is a shared responsibility among the university community, said Lisa Nagy, vice president for Student Affairs.

Social distancing, wearing masks and adhering to health practices such as handwashing are some of the steps the community can take when coming back to campus, she said.

“We really wanted to be able to provide the opportunities for them to come back and be on campus,” Nagy said.

A training module for a safe return to campus has been made available for university employees, said John Hall, vice president for Administration and Campus Operations.

The module includes videos and outlines mitigation measures to provide a safe environment, he said.

The module will soon be made available for students, and everyone is encouraged to take it before returning to campus, Hall said.

UTA is keeping a close eye on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Metroplex. Aswath said the university will be ready to pivot to completely online if at any point campus instruction poses an unsafe environment.

@megancardona_

news-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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