Fall plans for Mennonite post-secondary schools

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June 17, 2020 | News | Volume 24 Issue 13
Ross W. Muir | Managing Editor
(Conrad Grebel University College photo)

Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ont.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many changes and challenges for Grebel. While construction on the kitchen and dining room expansion continues, many other activities have been curtailed or adjusted. 

The spring term that runs from May to August at the University of Waterloo is being taught entirely online in light of the pandemic. This term, the College is offering 10 courses online, ranging from Roots of Conflict to Popular Music, and enrolments are strong for these courses. 

Grebel’s residence is entirely empty, resulting in significant staff layoffs. However, there are 23 students living in six units in the College’s on-campus apartment building.

Plans for the fall term are evolving, but at this point the direction is similar to the spring term, where undergraduate and graduate courses will be delivered remotely. The main difference between spring and fall is that Grebel professors might have more freedom to include synchronous elements.

Grebel has planned for only single-room occupancy in the fall term to allow for more physical distancing. “We are also upgrading our washrooms and plan to have robust sanitization protocols in place to ensure that we comply with public health best practises,” says Mary Brubaker-Zehr, director of student services.

Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg

At this time, Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is actively planning a “mixed model” for the 2020-21 fall and winter terms. Many classes will mix online and in-person elements, with some classes being offered primarily in-person and others via e-platforms. Every class will engage professors and students with one another in a real learning community. In all its planning, CMU is attentive to appropriate physical distancing for all on-campus activities, and to accommodating students who are unable to come to campus, or elect not to.

CMU has a spacious campus relative to the size of its small learning community, giving it ample space within which to spread out and accommodate physical-distancing requirements.

Attention to appropriate physical distancing is possible in virtually all circumstances and locations on campus. CMU is working to enact clear protocols consistent with directives provided by Manitoba health officials to ensure the health and safety of all on-campus students, staff, faculty and guests.

Given its size, as well as preparatory work by faculty planning teams through the spring, CMU can move quickly from in-person and hybrid classes to quality online education formats, should conditions or health directives warrant.

CMU will provide further details of fall education by July 15, recognizing that conditions or health directives may change the course of that decision.

Columbia Bible College, Abbotsford, B.C.

Columbia Bible College’s plan is to have face-to-face classes in the fall with built-in flexibility for different access points and delivery models. The reasons are as follows:

  • “We will maintain a clear focus on ensuring high-quality in-person instruction. We believe that, based on the current instruction and advice of health leaders, face-to-face classes are possible when combined with rigorous efforts to minimize health risks.
  • “Columbia’s class sizes are small when compared to larger institutions. Because of this, we can maintain physical-distance requirements and stay under the group size limits established by the Provincial Health Officer.
  • “Larger spaces on campus have been repurposed for classroom instruction, allowing reconfigured classroom spaces to accommodate appropriate levels of physical distance.
  • “All faculty and instructors will be resourced and enabled to provide remote delivery of class content in the event of their own absence from class.”

Columbia has launched a new learning management system that will enable access to all course content across multiple devices. Students will have online access to any classes that they miss. Instructors are equipped to deliver their courses remotely if they are restricted from campus.

The plan is for residences to operate in a manner similar to previous years, with added modifications, including enhanced cleaning in all common areas and high-touch surfaces.

Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Ind.

“As we continue to manage the impact of COVID-19, Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) is developing a plan for some Semester 1 courses (August/September-December) to meet in person while remaining safely distanced,” says Beverly Lapp, the school’s vice-president and academic dean. “We will also build on significant AMBS faculty experience with online formats and the unique pedagogical benefits of these, offering fully online classes, full videoconference classes, and blended classes (some students in the classroom with others attending via videoconference).

“Students or faculty with health or exposure risks will attend classes via videoconference. To minimize travel to campus from outside of the Elkhart region, hybrid courses that meet for an intensive week in mid-August will be available to attend remotely.

“Our accreditor, the Association of Theological Schools, has waived residency requirements through December 2020, enabling students in our Master of Divinity Connect program to count any Semester 1 course towards their residency hours.

“Our residential apartments remain operational and the AMBS library will be open to students and faculty,” she says. 

Related story:
‘Forced to re-imagine’ - Mennonite schools adapt education during the pandemic

(Conrad Grebel University College photo)

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