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Returning to Learn

The Return to Learning Task Force is led by Provost Dr. Thomas Burns and Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Interim Dean of Students Dr. Paula Gill. Its members include multiple college deans, the President of Faculty Senate, members of the Information Technology and Instructional Technology teams and other colleagues with distinct points of view on the teaching/learning experience at Belmont.

More than 18 different Return to Learning models were considered before arriving at what will be referred to as the HyFlex model for the Fall term. This HyFlex model will include a small percentage of fully online class options and hybrid classes designed to deliver instruction both in-person and at a distance, simultaneously. This approach will allow:

  • Students seeking a fully online/off-campus experience for the fall to have that experience as a Belmont student.
  • Safety measures to be implemented for in-class/on-campus learning to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission within our campus community.

Academic Calendar Adjustments

Adjustments to our academic calendar are being made that shorten our overall duration of time together on campus and take into consideration the potential for a late-year resurgence of COVID-19. Changes will also help minimize student travel throughout the semester, which will be key in managing the risk to campus. The calendar has been officially changed in the following ways:

Undergraduate Students
  • Classes will begin as scheduled on August 19 but all will be conducted virtually/fully online through Friday, September 4, when we hope to begin returning to campus.
    • On-campus classes, in the HyFlex model (mix of in class and virtual student participation), will resume on Monday, September 7.
    • Residential students moving in after September 7 based on the new Move-In Schedule can still participate remotely in the HyFlex format until they move in.
Graduate/Doctoral Students
  • Classes will begin as scheduled on August 19.
  • Some programs will begin the semester virtually through Friday, September 4; others will begin on-campus in the HyFlex model (mix of in class and virtual student participation) on August 19.
  • Individual Deans or program chairs will be reaching out to Graduate and Doctoral students with program-specific details.
All Students
  • Classes will be in session Monday, Sept. 7 for the Labor Day holiday.
  • There will be no Fall Break.
  • Exams will be completed by November 20, so that everyone can return home prior to Thanksgiving.
  • University officials are planning to celebrate the Winter 2020 Commencement on Saturday, Nov. 21. More details will be shared as soon as possible.

HyFlex Academic Model

Courses offered in Fall 2020 will fall into one of the three categories listed below. 

  • Fully Online
  • Hybrid Courses
  • In Person Courses

Following Federal/State/Local Health Department Guidelines

Belmont fully intends on a return to on-campus learning and to maintain our HyFlex learning model – including on-campus classes – for as long as possible in the Fall 2020 term. The University will be monitoring and assessing the state of the pandemic on a regular basis.

If campus, local, state or federal public health guidelines require us to move to fully online instruction for all courses once back on campus, Belmont will initiate such a move as seamlessly as possible. This would likely mean:

  • A temporary 3-5 day “pause” to classes to allow on-campus students to move out of residence halls and travel home.
  • Resumption of classes as soon as possible.
  • Further modifications to the academic calendar to make up for lost class time.

Because of these possibilities, it is important that our students and families remain as flexible as possible throughout the fall term. 

Improvements to Distance Learning Practices

In order to ensure that students participate in class remotely (whether in a 100 percent online course or a HyFlex course), Belmont is taking steps to ensure successful instructional delivery.

  • We are assessing camera and microphone technology needs to increase overall capability and improve performance for students participating online.
  • Belmont’s Information Technology Team will be providing specific hardware and software guidelines that will provide the best experience for students.
  • Belmont has also acquired a new all-campus ZOOM license as well as licenses to Evercast, AVID and other platforms that may be needed to deliver courses. This adds to our stable of virtual meeting technologies, which already included Microsoft TEAMS and Blackboard Collaborate.
  • Belmont faculty have been undergoing extensive new research and training about adapting instructional delivery for remote learning environments and are hard at work modifying fall teaching plans.

Staggered Class Schedules

Another adjustment Belmont is making to help manage campus foot traffic and overall density will be to stagger class start times. This means that students should expect minor (within 10-60 minutes) changes to the times currently listed for their classes.

  • The University will publish a timetable for the majority of courses.
  • The staggered schedule will create three distinct start times separated by blocks of 10 minutes for each “class window” so that not more than one-third of the sections scheduled in that window will start at the same time. The same will be true, then, of class end times.
  • Changes are designed to limit scheduling conflicts for students and allow at least 10 minutes for all class change periods. If conflicts do arise we will work with students to try and find a suitable resolution.
  • The staggered schedule will also allow 30 minutes between each class to reduce building/hallway traffic.
  • Students who are physically present in a classroom on any given day will be asked to quickly exit classrooms upon class completion, and not loiter in common spaces or lobbies, to allow this staggered schedule to accomplish the stated goals.
  • Information about new class start times will be available at a later date on this website.

This PDF Document shows how the Staggered Class Schedule will look in the fall. 

The PDF can be read as follows:

Columns are labeled as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with sub-headers of A, B, and C – This is an illustration of how we could divide the number of class sections in each “traditional” window into three groups –A, B, and C – with three different start and end times, staggered by 10 minutes, with 30 minute “open” windows in between each class meeting. Using Monday 8 a.m. courses as the example, we would divide the sections of classes that would have met at 8:00 a.m. in the “traditional” model into three groups

  • “8:00 a.m.” Group A classes start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 8:50 a.m.
  • “8:00 a.m.” Group B classes start at 8:10 a.m. and end at 9:00 a.m. 
  • “8:00 a.m.” Group C classes start at 8:20 a.m. and end at 9:10 a.m.
  • This structure allows for 30 minute “open” slots.
  • No courses overlap with other time slots.

No student would have less than 10 minutes to change classes (but could have as much as 50 minutes if they had one class that was “Group A” in one time slot and a subsequent class in the next time slot that was “Group C”)

Dividing classes up into three groups (A, B, and C) creates different start and end times reducing hallway congestion without the need to reschedule all classes

Graduate Programs 

Due to the varying demands and meeting schedules of Belmont’s graduate programs, each College will be working directly with those programs to determine class times, hybrid approaches and social distancing measures.

Classes will begin as scheduled on August 19. Some programs will begin the semester virtually through Friday, September 4; others will begin on-campus in the HyFlex model (mix of in class and virtual student participation) on August 19.

Graduate students will be hearing directly from their deans and program directors with program-specific updates for the fall.

Physical Distancing in Classrooms

All fall courses are being evaluated based on number of registrants versus assigned classroom space to implement appropriate physical distancing protocols.

  • When necessary, larger classes may be moved to classrooms that are larger than those originally assigned to accommodate more in-person attendees.
  • Belmont will also consider non-traditional spaces for holding higher-volume classes and will equip such spaces with necessary furnishings and technology to function as classrooms.

Once classrooms or class spaces are confirmed for each course:

  • Limits will be set on the allowable number of students to be physically present for any given session, based on distancing guidelines.
  • Students may need to rotate between in-classroom presence and off-site/remote learning presence. This rotation will be assigned by the instructor.
Instructional delivery is being designed so that students can fully engage remotely on non-classroom days.

Classroom Cleaning and Safety Expectations

Even with distancing practices in place, group presence in an enclosed classroom will require additional safety measures to be in place.

  • Both students and professors – as well as any guest speakers or lecturers – will be required to wear masks for the duration of the class.
  • Classrooms will be cleaned professionally daily.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be distributed to key locations throughout campus, especially near the entrance to buildings, classrooms and elevators. Students and professors are also encouraged to have personal hand sanitizer available to use as frequently as they wish during class.
  • Students and professors are asked to keep a safe distance at all times. Please do not approach others within six feet of distance without asking their permission first, and do so only if all parties are wearing masks.

Advising, Office Hours and Small Group Sessions

Students and faculty will have the option to use virtual technologies for meetings/sessions outside the classroom. Advising appointments, individual student/faculty meetings and any small group sessions can be conducted via ZOOM or Blackboard Collaborate.

WELL Core

While Students will still be required to meet WELL Core requirements, the standard 10 a.m. M/W/F WELL Core hour will not be observed for the fall semester due to staggered class times. Instead – and as an extension of the successful online WELL Core program this Spring – there will be ample virtual offerings to allow students to meet their requirements.

Teaching Resources

Belmont offers faculty ample resources to aid with teaching and instructional needs. The University’s Teaching Center is available to provide you with practical ways to support your efforts to learn more about teaching and learning as an important component of your overall professional development. Belmont’s Learning Centers also provide numerous resources to assist in course needs, and additional resources are currently being compiled to provide even more robust support for all faculty.

Bunch Library

The Lila D. Bunch Library is committed to ensuring the Library remains open for current Belmont students, faculty and staff as a site for study and research. To ensure good health practices and mitigate risks, the Library will be following these protocols:

  • At this time, the library will not be open for external guests.
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be provided throughout the building in high traffic areas
  • The self check-out station will be moved to a more visible spot to enable contactless check out of materials
  • Social distancing measures will be enhanced by moving furniture to create space between library visitors