Western Carolina University is focused on providing our students with a quality education and preparation for responsible citizenship in a changing world. Our core values embrace excellent teaching, scholarship, and service; collaboration with and respect for our communities; free and open interchange of ideas; cultural diversity and equal opportunity; responsible stewardship and organizational effectiveness; and environmental sustainability. While the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of university life, we remain committed to these ideals.
As with the past fall semester, instruction for the 2021 spring semester will consist of face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses. Instructional flexibility will provide for meaningful face-to-face interactions between faculty and students, where appropriate, while meeting social distancing protocols and/or effective online instruction as necessary.
The majority of classes will be taught in a combination of face-to-face class interactions and asynchronous or synchronous online teaching.
Courses that cannot be achieved virtually, such as some performance, laboratory and clinical experiences, will be prioritized for face-to-face instruction in a safe environment. The spring schedule of classes identifies instructional modality for each course.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, we may be required to move exclusively to online teaching, or another multimodal instructional strategy, for all courses. In the event of a rebound in local infections, remote options will be planned for and available to support continued physical distancing and to support vulnerable students and staff, students in quarantine or isolation, and students and staff who cannot physically return to campus.
A 3-hour Monday, Wednesday, Friday class may occur in one face-to-face meeting and two asynchronous or synchronous (online) meetings per week.
Face-to-face meetings will be limited in size to adhere to social distancing practices. A class of 30, for example, that meets in a classroom seating 15, under social distancing practices, may have 2 groups meeting face-to-face on alternate days.
Maintaining these face-to-face meetings while adhering to social distancing standards will provide students with the support needed and will allow for meaningful interactions between faculty and students.
As part of our preparations for last semester, the Provost's Office partnered with Facilities Management, Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, and the Registrar's Office to ensure faculty and students could return to classrooms (including at our Biltmore Park instructional site) that accommodated the need for physical distancing.
Every classroom was inventoried and classified by type to determine capacity and the methods necessary to meet physical distancing guidelines. Where needed, new furniture was ordered and new classroom layouts were designed. This project involved the removal of 3,000 pieces of classroom furniture. The photos below show examples of classrooms before and after in Killian and Stillwell.
All furniture in general classrooms are spaced for a minimum of six feet distance between student stations. Signs in each classroom include maximum occupancy and the intended furniture layout. Floor stickers indicate the placement of each desk and table, and tabletop stickers indicate where to sit.
Labs and other specialty instructional spaces also adhere to the recommended guidelines for six feet of physical distancing between student workstations and excess furniture has been stored.
The current guidance for accessible spaces is to arrange seating to allow a minimum of six feet between seats, including break rooms, lounges, study spaces, and hallways. New requests for assistance with furniture moving can be made to Facilities Management.
One of the hallmarks of our educational programs at WCU is an emphasis on experiential and applied learning. Clinical, laboratory, field-based, and service learning courses are critical components of many undergraduate and graduate programs.
Additionally, high impact practices such as first year experiences, service learning, capstones, and internships, are common educational approaches at WCU that require creativity and additional support to employ.
Faculty and staff have a number of resources available to facilitate incorporating experiential and applied learning elements in courses this fall when appropriate. Please contact the Coulter Faculty Commons for Excellence in Teaching for more information.