The 2021 spring semester started on Tuesday, Jan. 19 with continued COVID-19 restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic.
With continuous safety measures, including mask wearing and social distancing everywhere on campus, Texas A&M announced in an email from interim Provost Mark Weichold that despite rising cases, classes for the spring semester will continue as planned. These intentions include an increase of in-person class options for students.
“Although cases are elevated both throughout the country and in the Brazos Valley, this was expected by local and national experts. Adjustments were made months ago in preparation for the increase in cases,” the email read. “I feel confident, as do public health officials, that moving forward with our spring semester as scheduled is the right decision.”
Although more classes have now been offered in-person, some instructors, like professor of journalism Angelique Gammon, have preferred to continue teaching in an online format until the pandemic passes. Gammon said she has received significant amounts of positive feedback from students about teaching her classes virtually, according to the end of course evaluations from fall 2020.
“There were some nice comments about how I conducted synchronous Zoom classes, but there is also big room for improvement,” Gammon said. “I think the keys are breaking that television screen feeling and expecting people to talk when they immediately log-in to class.”
Though many classes are offered online, this does not mean students are any less engaged, with professors working hard to ensure students are still active and learning as much as they would in a traditional classroom setting.
Geosciences professor Elizabeth Kenderes said she takes more time to make sure all students are able to access information and learn beyond listening to a lecture or reading a textbook.
“I really have moved away from lectures in particular when teaching on Zoom,” Kenderes said. “This has forced me to apply my teaching philosophy. I believe that students learn better by engaging with the material than just listening to the lecture.”
Weichold said in the email that students should keep following COVID-19 precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and others throughout the semester, as well as frequently getting tested at the multiple locations on campus.
“Most importantly, continue to take the precautions that we are all familiar with, even if you have been vaccinated: Wear a face covering, wash your hands frequently, keep physically distanced and avoid off-campus gatherings,” the email reads.
In addition, A&M offered these reminders in the email for students and employees:
- Instructors should specify which learning management system will be used, ideally in the syllabus.
- Instructors may enforce the requirements for face coverings and physical distancing in face-to-face classes.
- Instructors can require that cameras remain turned on during class.
- The last day to add/drop is Monday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m.
- No classes will be held on March 2, March 19 or April 2.
- Capacity remains restricted for both indoor and outdoor gatherings on campus.
- The student-based Keep Learning page and the employee-based Keep Teaching page provide valuable resources for online learning and instruction.