UMass Lowell, Northern Essex Take Different Approaches to Returning Students This Fall

UMass President Marty Meehan, right, shares a thought with UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney in Haverhill. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Area state colleges are making plans for the fall semester with UMass Lowell planning a full return to classrooms, while Northern Essex Community College offers four different options.

Northern Essex students will have a choice of online courses without required online meetings; online courses with required online meetings; hybrid courses, combining in-person socially-distanced classroom meetings with online work; and on campus, socially-distanced, face-to-face courses. UMass Lowell said in a statement that while campus operations may not look identical to 2019 when the semester begins, the school is making plans in the coming months to move “as close to normal as possible.”

UMass Lowell Provost Joseph Hartman said the school has already increased on-campus populations in classrooms and our residence halls.

“With vaccinations accelerating nationwide and multiple semesters of COVID-19 lessons learned and effectively implemented behind us, we believe we will be able to create a safe, social and interpersonal living and learning experience for all our students on campus,” Hartman said.

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said in a message to employees, the university is “emerging from this pandemic in a far stronger place than many of our peers across the country.”

Northern Essex Community College President Lane A. Glenn. (Courtesy photograph.)

Northern Essex recently offered 90% of courses online without required online meetings and 10% face-to-face.

“The goal is to give students more options that include scheduled time with their instructors,” said Bill Heineman, college provost. “We found many students liked the flexibility of online learning but wanted the accountability that required meetings could bring.”

The college surveyed students late last fall and faculty and staff in the same time frame to determine how the changes related to COVID-19 were impacting teaching and learning.

When asked what kind of online course they preferred, students responded with a 43% preference for online courses without required online meetings; a 14% preference for online courses with required online meetings; and a 43% preference for a mixture of the two.

The college also found some students would benefit from actual face time on campus, which is why it will provide hybrid courses in the fall of 2021.

Meanwhile, Northern Essex plans five small in-person, socially distanced graduation ceremonies outside on the Haverhill Campus Saturday, May 15, starting with the first ceremony at 9 a.m. Because last year’s ceremony was virtual, 2020 graduates have been invited to participate.

All graduates will be seated six-feet apart and policies regarding guests will be announced closer to the date, when the guidelines regarding outside events become clearer.

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