Dear Emmanuel College Students,
As communicated with our entire community last week, the College made the difficult decision to pivot to a completely virtual Fall 2020 semester. Having been directly engaged in our planning efforts over the last months, I assure you that every effort was made to reopen our campus for in-person living and learning. Working in collaboration with our colleagues across the campus, faculty with expertise in biology, bioinformatics, psychology, nursing, management, economics, English, and philosophy helped to shape what the semester could look like. Ultimately, while much of the infrastructure was in place for COVID-19 testing, symptom tracking, quarantine, isolation, and other enhanced health and safety measures, the concerning nature of the increasing number of cases both within Massachusetts and around the country posed too many potential risks for our community and our neighborhood within the City of Boston. Personally, as an immunologist, I can tell you with assurance that there are many uncertainties that remain given the ever-changing course of this COVID-19 pandemic.
The Virtual Model and Benefits of Synchronous Learning
Just as the health and safety of our students has been a primary driver of our planning, equally so is providing an educational experience that allows all students to move forward in their academic pursuits with the least amount of disruption. During the Spring 2020 semester, the need to shift to 100% online introduced a significant interruption in the learning process. In the past weeks, it became apparent to us that another campus closure could be a real possibility during the semester (and we are already seeing this in other parts of the country). Throughout our EmmanuelForward planning, we developed parallel strategies for both hybrid and 100% virtual models, so we are well prepared to offer an excellent, consistent academic experience. Throughout the summer, faculty participated in online learning boot camps, as well as individual consulting with the College’s Academic Technology and Innovation Group to tailor courses to the virtual environment.
We certainly understand that none of this is ideal, nor is it the way we would choose to partner with each of you on your educational journeys, whether you are a returning or new student. But the same reasons that you chose to come to Emmanuel College are the exact reasons why we are confident in our ability to deliver the education you deserve: world-class faculty teaching small, interactive classes. Whether it is in the classroom or over Zoom, Emmanuel’s commitment to your education means that your faculty will still know you by name and continue to serve as close mentors and advisors.
This is also why we are offering all courses on the days and times previously scheduled, otherwise referred to as “synchronously.” Learning has always occurred in both a synchronous and asynchronous manner; traditionally this has presented itself as lectures and discussions that are supplemented by assignments, papers, problem sets, research, outside reading, and more. During the last semester, we learned together just how much students value the consistency of knowing they will be connecting with faculty “live.” For Fall 2020, you may find the traditional lecture/homework model shifted to better take advantage of technology. Some of you have already participated in “flipped classes,” during which lectures are pre-recorded and viewed asynchronously and class time is dedicated to discussions, problem solving, or workshops. Each member of our faculty is committed to using your dedicated time together to best fit the needs of a particular course and subject matter.
However, we do recognize that attending classes on the assigned days and times may be problematic for the small group of students who fall outside the Eastern Time Zone, or who have other challenging situations that may arise during the semester. As in any other semester, we encourage students to discuss with their faculty the best ways to engage to meet the needs of the student and the class. Furthermore, Assistant Dean of Student Learning & Success Dorice Griffith will be ready to assist all those students who are outside the Eastern Time Zone to work through this particular challenge, which may also mean exploring course changes during the current add/drop period.
Enhanced Technology and Academic Support Services
As we have prepared all summer to meet the needs of students who would be 100% virtual, the College has taken extra steps to support each student’s success. All students are being provided with a full Zoom account for the fall semester. In addition to using Zoom for classes, students will be able to have access to scheduling meetings and gatherings with up to 100 classmates, friends and family without time limits. All students are also provided full access to Microsoft Office 365, which includes email, MS Teams, MS Office Suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), and other Microsoft cloud-based applications.
The Information Technology Help Desk will continue to be available to students needing assistance with hardware or software problems, and appointments can be made via MS Teams or Zoom with Help Desk staff. Any student experiencing problems with home internet or computer is encouraged to contact the Help Desk at email@example.com in advance of classes beginning.
Resources through the Library Learning Commons are accessible 24/7 through the Learning Commons Toolbox and an ECLearn Orientation for Students. These resources and activities are focused on academic strategies, time management, technology skills, and best practices to meet the expectations of college-level work. Live sessions and access to the library team will be available throughout the semester.
You will also have access to all of the academic services you would on campus including Academic Advising, the Academic Resource Center, and the Career Center. Each of these areas within Academic Affairs will be reaching out regarding on-going virtual programming. Academic Advising, for example, will launch drop-in sessions starting next week and will cover topics over the semester such as the transition to college, exploring majors, preparing for exams and more.
Together We Move Forward
As we officially begin classes on August 26th, we do so with the confidence that through a partnership between faculty, staff, and students, we will have a successful semester at Emmanuel College. I am ready to embark on this journey with you and invite you to be active and engaged learners.
For seniors, you have built an incredibly strong foundation of skills and knowledge, and all the resources you need to launch your next steps are in full force. For juniors and sophomores, you continue to build your credentials and résumé for the future. For first-year students, we promise that the next four years will be fulfilling and prepare you for success.
Please continue to send your questions, concerns and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Josef Kurtz
Vice President of Academic Affairs/Chief Academic Officer
Professor of Biology