Our relationship-based education will extend online
When Castleton University announced on July 15 that we would move our courses to online delivery for the fall 2020 semester, we expected mixed feelings from our students and their families. We welcome feedback, even criticism, of the often difficult decisions we have to make as we navigate the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19. Knowing the thoughts, views, and preferences of our community help us serve our students in the best way possible.
As is always the case, our community hasn't disappointed in letting us know how they feel. We have received piles of emails, comments, and questions since our announcement. As expected, some applaud the move in the interest of safety; some are disappointed but also understanding of the tough choices we have to make. Others are outright upset that they or their student will receive online delivery this fall. Nobody is wrong. Everyone simply has different needs.
This sort of decision isn't something we take lightly. We collectively spent hundreds of hours meeting, discussing, researching, and weighing many competing and often changing factors in deciding how our fall semester should look. We know this sort of announcement won't make everyone happy, because there is no perfect solution. All we can do is make the best decision possible in support of our campus community's health, a quality education, and student and family satisfaction.
We also know that remote education doesn't have to be impersonal. When many people think of online learning, they envision students piled into large, asynchronous online classes and left to themselves to "figure it out." That's not how the fall semester is going to look at Castleton.
Students choose a University for a variety of reasons. It may be for a vibrant campus experience; it may be to get an excellent education and enter into their desired field; and for many, it may be for the strong personal relationships they build with faculty, staff, and fellow students. While we may not get together in the classroom this fall, our plan changes little of this. Preserving the things our families love about Castleton and the continuity of our students' education were important considerations as we planned our fall. Here's how we will do it:
- Students will choose a living situation that meets their needs, so they don't have to jeopardize their academic progress if they don't feel comfortable being on campus.
- Students can expect familiar faces and access to the same faculty they are accustomed to seeing in person. Our full-time faculty will deliver a majority of our online courses. Our professors remain four-year mentors for students regardless of our courses' modality - a relationship that often extends far beyond graduation. Nothing changes your one-on-one relationship with your professor.
- Many of our professors will offer a mix of synchronous and asynchronous online instruction. This means many courses will still have live instruction in which students can interact with professors in real-time. Office hours will also be available remotely, and, in many cases, in-person on campus.
- Students on campus and off will have access to the offices, services, and resources the campus provides. Students can access such services as the Academic Support Center, Wellness Center, and Career Services in-person and through video conferencing or telephone. One-on-one campus relationships will remain intact, no matter where students are located.
- We will find opportunities to bring people together for meaningful campus experiences. While students' coursework will be delivered online, there will be opportunities to interact with one another on our campus and remotely.
- We are continuing to invest in professional development for faculty and improved classroom technology to fine-tune the remote learning experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a learning experience for all of us. We genuinely appreciate the patience, understanding, and feedback from our faculty, staff, students, and the broader community. If you are upset about online teaching in the fall, we understand. We can't wait until everyone is back in face-to-face classes as well. If you are disappointed, we are grateful for your understanding. We are, too, because there is nothing better than bringing everyone together. If online courses were critical to your fall plans, we're happy that you don't have to interrupt your education.
We look forward to seeing all of our students back in our classrooms in the better days ahead.
Associate Dean of Advancement