Grove City College will begin a new chapter next week when the College moves to remote instruction as part of the nationwide effort to suppress the spread of coronavirus.
The transition is necessary to fulfill Grove City College’s mission to provide an excellent and affordable Christ-centered education while the campus is temporarily closed to limit large group gatherings and person-to-person contact.
College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 announced this week that all students should leave campus by Friday, March 20 in accordance with state and federal recommendations to staunch the threat posed by the virus.
On Monday, March 23 courses will move to a distance delivery model devised by the College’s academic and technology leaders. Classes won’t be “going online” so much as switching to synchronous remote instruction. What that means is that, for the most part, professors will be teaching their courses at the same times and days as normally scheduled while students join them via their College-issued laptops using technological tools recommended by Grove City College’s information technology team and online program.
“We’re primarily using Microsoft Teams. It’s just one powerful tool in an ecosystem of learning management system tools that are out there and after this is over we’ll be able to continue using it,” Dr. Christy L. Crute, executive director of Graduate and Online Programs, said.
What form the classes take is largely up to individual faculty, according to Dr. Peter Frank ’95, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “They may lecture. They may run a class discussion. They’ll connect with students – wherever they are.”
While the online classes will be synched to regularly scheduled class meeting times, lectures will be available online afterward to meet student needs.
In the face of a national crisis that’s impacted just about every college and university, Grove City College has adapted swiftly to get more than 150 faculty and 2,400 students ready for a remote instructional modality.
Faculty are ready to learn and picking it up very quickly, Crute said. They are also benefitting from a strong bench of professors who have experience in the digital delivery of education. “We have experts in online education who are serving as mentors to their faculty. It’s really powerful and hugely successful,” she said. “The mentors are really blowing it away.”
“Everyone involved has been working tirelessly to get ready for the transition,” Frank said. “We’re prepared to support students and faculty in every way possible.”
As with any massive and unexpected change, there may be some pitfalls as colleges and universities around the world move to online delivery, many using the same tools as Grove City College. Crute said the shift online in Europe last week “strained” Microsoft Teams but the tech giant was able to adapt. The app was working fine Thursday during a faculty training session. Frank said the College has doubled its bandwidth to accommodate the transition. However, it is possible that students spread out across the country and faculty new to the process may experience some technical difficulties in the early days.
“It’s not just our infrastructure in play,” Crute said. “We are all going to relax, and if on day one, your class doesn’t go as planned, then on day two it will.”