While thousands of Virginia Tech students will return to the Blacksburg campus this weekend for the spring semester, only 6% of classes will be fully in-person – the same rate as the fall.
The university in October said every effort would be made to provide more in-person classes for the spring. At that time, Provost Cyril Clarke urged professors to reassess their class mode when initial plans showed that the spring would look much like the fall.
In addition for the upcoming semester, 24% of undergraduate classes at Tech will be “hybrid,” a mix of in-person and online instruction, compared to 30% of fall courses, according to Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski.
Unlike some other colleges in Virginia, Tech largely has given professors the freedom to choose how to conduct their classes. Faculty, in consultation with department heads, deans and the provost, designed whether courses would be online, in-person or a mix of both, according to the university’s spring operations plan.
Classes begin Jan. 19, and all courses will be remote until Jan. 25, when they will switch to their assigned mode.
While a smaller percentage of classes this semester will have an in-person component, slightly more online classes will be held in real-time, rather than pre-recorded.
For the spring, 52% of undergraduate classes are considered online with “synchronous” meetings, meaning faculty and students fire up Zoom at the same time. Another 18% of classes are “asynchronous,” meaning students can watch a video of the class at their convenience.
Last fall, 46% of classes were synchronous and 18% were asynchronous.
Clarke encouraged faculty to increase in-person classes or real-time online classes this spring, should public health guidelines allow.
“As we progress through the spring, I am optimistic that warmer weather and the availability of protective vaccines will allow the university to start transitioning towards a return to our ‘next-normal’ by fall of 2021,” Clarke said in a message to faculty at the end of the fall semester. “If at all possible, I encourage you to maintain flexibility in your instructional plans to allow us to incorporate more synchronous online and in-person instruction in your courses, if conditions allow.”
At nearby Radford University, more than 45% of classes will be “fully face-to-face,” said school spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs. About 25% of classes will be hybrid and about 30% fully online.
Last fall, Radford held about 63% of its undergraduate classes in-person, with 8% hybrid and 29% online.