Students at the University of North Georgia can expect quite a different college experience this fall, according to insight gleaned from a virtual town hall meeting on Monday, July 27.
UNG held the town hall to provide students and their parents with an update of what the imminent return to fall classes may look like for the university.
UNG is based in Dahlonega, with additional campuses in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Gainesville and Oconee.
WHAT WILL CLASS LOOK LIKE?
Classes and instruction will be altered heavily, as many courses adopt a hybrid model of teaching that will involve both virtual and face-to-face instruction, according to UNG provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Chaudron Gille. Each hybrid class will be labeled as either H1, H2 or H3.
Gille said students in H1 classes — the most common form of hybrid course — will spend “25% to 50%” of course time in face-to-face learning, which will translate to about one face-to-face meeting with a professor a week per course. The classes will also contain digital coursework, which will be completed via D2L Brightspace, an online learning management platform.
Gille said the rotation schedules for when students will be meeting in classrooms will be released on that platform.
H2 classes will take place primarily online, although students in these classes will still meet with their professors four to eight times in a semester, according to Gille. Students in H3 classes will meet at about the same rate as those in H1 classes, but H3 courses are those that require additional safety protocols, such as lab science classes.
Online components of hybrid courses will go beyond merely video lectures, and will often include interactive activities, Gille said.
When meeting face-to-face for classes, all students will be required to wear protective face coverings, per a mandate from the University System of Georgia earlier this summer.
Gille said final exams for the fall semester will be held entirely online, and there will be no face-to-face meetings for classes after the Thanksgiving holiday. Because of the many requirements professors may have of their students during exams, all students will be required to have computers with both video and audio capabilities.
According to Gille, UNG “will do our very best” to work with high-risk students who require additional safety accommodations or feel unsafe attending face-to-face lessons. He also acknowledged that there is a chance UNG will have to shift back to entirely online learning, and said the school has made preparations for that possibility.
Mac McConnell, senior vice president of business and finance at UNG, said there is currently no plan to reassess student fees, although he added that “online only would generate potential for refunds depending on when that may occur.”
WHAT WILL LIVING ON CAMPUS LOOK LIKE?
Students will also have to deal with a variety of lifestyle changes around campus.
Those changes will begin on move-in day, when students will move into residence halls in a staggered fashion based on appointments, according to Treva Smith, director of residence life. They will not be permitted to bring more than two guests to help with moving in, she said.
Students will be required to wear face coverings in residence hall common areas, such as bathrooms or kitchens, but will not have to wear masks inside their own rooms, according to Smith. The residence halls will remain open through the end of the semester, but they will not be permitting visitors, she said.
In terms of extracurricular activities, James Conneely, vice president of student affairs, said the school is attempting to preserve the college experience as much as possible while still adhering to CDC, public health and USG guidelines.
Conneely said all offices and on-campus services will be available, though “they may look different at times.”
UNG will not, however, be offering full contact intramural sports, and will instead focus on “skill-focused” sports, such as tennis. Club sports will not be offered this fall either, but, according to Conneely, the school is exploring the possibility of expanding its club esports. UNG already started including several new intramural esport opportunities this summer.
Dining facilities will be open, but will be held to “limited occupancy,” Conneely said. Students will also be given the option to order custom meals from dining halls online and pick up their food to eat it elsewhere, he said.
Fraternities, sororities and other student organizations will remain available for students who wish to participate in them.
“Our advisors for those organizations will work with them to give them best practices to ensure that they’re safe and taking necessary precautions,” Conneely said.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET SICK
Students will not be required to be tested for COVID-19 upon arriving on campus, but they will be expected to perform daily self-monitoring tests, including regular checking their temperatures, according to Greg Williams, associate director of emergency preparedness.
Those who believe they may be have contracted COVID-19 will be asked to complete the COVID-19 self-reporting form, which will “activate the university’s response protocols.”
The response protocols are designed to support the infected student or faculty member with “academic or employment accommodations that may be necessary,” according to school officials. After completing the self-reporting form, students are also advised to contact their professors to keep them updated on their ability to come to class.
Williams also said that UNG is finalizing plans to offer COVID-19 testing for students who are showing symptoms of the virus.
Testing will be set up by appointment through student health services. Students who wish to be tested must first undergo an evaluation by a clinician, who will decide if the student should be tested or not. COVID-19 tests will be covered by the student health fee for all students who have already paid the fee, according to Williams.