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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 Belmont refers to as the HyFlex model. 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 allows:

  • Students seeking a fully online/off-campus experience for the spring 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.

All courses for the spring semester were designated with one of the following labels on Classfinder so students could register for the class knowing the instructional model.

  • In Person Required: Class meets in person only at times noted on schedule - in person attendance is required (not available online)
  • HyFlex: Class meets simultaneously in person or online at times noted on schedule - attendance is required at scheduled times
  • Synchronous:Online: Class meets online only at times noted in schedule - attendance is required at scheduled times
  • Asynchronous:Online: Class is available to students online only; may or may not have scheduled meetings

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 ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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:

  • Belmont will again utilize a shortened semester without breaks for MLK Day, spring break or Easter.
  • Classes will begin on January 13, 2021 and end April 13, 2021.
  • Final exams will begin on April 14.
  • Belmont's Baccalaureate and Graduation ceremonies will be held not earlier than Thursday April 22 and not later than Monday April 25, 2021, but final dates will depend on the progression of  COVID-19 throughout the spring. 
  • You may view the entire Spring academic calendar here, though please note that the dates for Baccalaureate and Graduation, as indicated above, are tentative. 

HyFlex Academic Model

Courses offered in Spring 2021 will fall into one of the three categories listed below. 

  • Fully Online
  • HyFlex 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 Spring 2021 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 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 have assessed camera and microphone technology needs to increase overall capability and improve performance for students participating online.
  • Belmont’s Information Technology Team provided specific hardware and software guidelines that will provide the best experience for students.
  • Belmont 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 in order to modify their teaching plans.

Staggered Class Schedules

Another successful strategy to help manage foot traffic and overall density that Belmont will continue in the Spring will be to stagger class start times.

  • The staggered schedule creates 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.
  • 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.

This PDF Document shows how the Staggered Class Schedule works and 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, HyFlex approaches and social distancing measures.

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

Physical Distancing in Classrooms

All 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 frequently be cleaned professionally.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are available in 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 due to staggered class times. Instead – and as an extension of the successful online WELL Core program – 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 are available throughout the building in high traffic areas.
  • The self check-out station has been 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.