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UPDATE: AU Plans to Implement Blended Model of Learning for Fall 2020

BY: ISAIAH WASHINGTON AND TAMIR HARPER 

updated: 9:00 PM 6/21/2020

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Photo by: Lauren Lumpkin

American University will reopen in the fall with reduced housing, thorough testing and sterilization procedures, and a fusion of in-person instruction and online learning with some courses being exclusively offered online. Students will be asked not to return to campus post-Thanksgiving break. The University's proposal styled as AU Forward is pending approval from the District of Columbia. 

Starting on August 15, students will begin to move into a revised AU, one that sports new classroom spaces and buildings operating at a reduced occupancy. Undergraduate and graduate students will launch into an online/in-person blended model on August 24. 

Students can choose to stay online in the fall. The University plans to have live synchronous sessions to cultivate class participation from the virtual community with microphones and cameras. Courses will also be available that are specifically designed for students in different time zones. The institution stresses that it would like to have only a small percentage of purely online classes. 

Financial aid awards will be out by July 1. A decision to remain remote in the fall does not impact the financial aid a student is to receive. Students opting for AU's virtual community will only be charged tuition with housing expenses being refunded. 

Students are implored to consult their academic and financial advisors before deferring a semester. Incoming students can apply for a deferral by July 1. They are instructed to be specific in their application with their enrichment plans for their intended year off. Merit and financial packages will continue if the deferral is approved. Returning students are able to take a temporary leave with aid still being in place if students return within a year. 

Returning students will have modified access to studios, labs, and collaborative spaces which will operate with a reservation system. All classroom spaces will have seating charts aligned with physical distancing guidelines. 

After the announcement canceling all Fall Study Abroad Programs, the AU Forward plan of action seeks to salvage a buoyant experience for returning and incoming students. Students, faculty, and staff will be trained in health and safety guidelines before convening in person. The guidelines include notable changes like required face coverings, limited activities, a mandated health assessment questionnaire, rigorous sanitation practices, and a social distancing policy. The University has stated that it will rely on the AU community to hold members to these new guidelines, guaranteeing that AUPD will not be involved in these affairs. Non-complying students will be trained with successive infractions being handled through the student conduct code. Decisions are still being made regarding what classes will meet completely online or in a blended fashion including AUx.

Additionally, the University plans to offer single-occupancy on-campus housing which will reduce housing to 52%. The University will prioritize first and second-year students for on-campus housing, while juniors and seniors can concretize off-campus living arrangements with University assistance. A few off-campus locations that include hotel reservation blocks have been allocated to sophomore students who planned to live on campus. Students will need to reapply for housing. 

Available properties will be published on the Off-Campus site. AU is currently in contractual negotiations to secure the spaces for sophomores and even some upperclassmen. They are considering retail availability, meeting of AU rates for housing, neighborhood safety, Metro accessibility, and alignment with D.C. safety and health guidelines.

Students' Metro University Passes will be operational in the fall. Metro and AU shuttles will be at reduced operating capacity with increased cleaning of vehicles. No one other than AU community members is allowed to use the campus shuttles. 

Only members of the AU community will be allowed on campus. Friends and family are prohibited from visiting campus in order to further minimize exposure. The University intends on abbreviating the time families are in students' rooms for fall move-in. There are talks to have a reduction in items students bring to campus and to have students ship some of their items prior to move-in. More information about move-in is forthcoming. Students are implored to remain local during the semester and will be provided with a series of on-campus engagement opportunities. 

Renovations have been halted for Roper Hall with Hughes Hall becoming the new site of Black affinity housing. Black students can expect to have at least one designated floor depending on how many individuals opt into the affirming space, according to the director of housing Dr. Chris Silva. 

At Thanksgiving break, students can expect to pack their bags as all in-person learning will be terminated and supplanted with a completely virtual educational experience that culminates in another round of online finals. Faculty members can once again expect changes to their teaching approaches from prolonged telework to a vacillation between remote teaching and abbreviated in-person lectures. Students should expect to hear from faculty in the following weeks regarding what modality will contain their course learning. Additional information will be populated in Blackboard. The succession plans in place for faculty who are unable to continue teaching during the fall semester include a "buddy system" where a colleague familiar with the coursework will step in to continue the syllabus. 

As of right now, the University is still adhering to the standard Pass/Fail and add/drop deadlines. 

Students will be able to do virtual internships with AU's premier study abroad program sites in Brussels, Madrid, and Nairobi as a way to supplant their canceled abroad experiences. Decisions regarding study abroad programs in the spring semester have not been finalized, but the University plans on having students express their interest and simultaneously register for AU courses. 

Starting on August 16, meal plans will feature packaged meals and students will be able to remotely order from retail food options. The Terrace Dining Room will require reservations to reduce seating with tables being sanitized after use. Chartwells staff will be protected by Plexiglass shields and have their temperatures regularly monitored. 

The University will be amending the academic schedule to limit exposure. Fall break, occurring from October 9 to October 11, will be reconfigured to develop students' competencies for the post-COVID job market through multiple events that will similarly follow the University's touted blended learning approach. The Skills Institute will augment students' skill sets and permit them to further connect with faculty, staff, and alumni with some credit courses being offered. 

AU is working on increasing virtual internship opportunities. It is looking to hire graduate and undergraduate students to assist faculty in this new technology-dependent context and paying international students who are not in the country in the fall. 

Working with the protocols promulgated within the University and D.C., AU Athletics promises student-athletes and sports personnel a functional season that will resume operations in phases. 

The Student Health Center will be equipped with COVID-19 tests that will be administered to symptomatic members of the AU student body as well as tests that can be voluntarily taken. Health insurance fully covers student testing by way of the CARES Act. AU is dedicated to alleviating financial burdens that would obstruct students from visiting the Health Center and/or receiving a test. There is a two day turnaround for test results. The faculty and staff will have the cost of their tests, which will be taken through their primary health care providers, completely covered by their University health insurance. 

Students are advised to bring with them thermometers and oxygen saturation monitors in order to complete the required health questionnaire with exactness and efficiency. 

Off-campus students will need to quarantine in their spaces if they are to contract the virus. Student Health Center staff will attend to them and transport them to the local hospital if needed. Students quarantining on campus will have their own bathroom and food delivered to them in a designated residential hall.

The University is confident that the blended modality will enable faculty to swiftly adapt without interruption. 

Resources: 

FAQ: https://www.american.edu/coronavirus/faq.cfm

Housing Homepage: https://www.american.edu/ocl/housing/

Off-Campus Properties: https://www.american.edu/ocl/housing/upload/offcampusproperties_6_19_2020.pdf

This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information becomes available.


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