Mix of fall classes serves safety, instructional innovation and WMU’s high-quality education

Contact: Deanne Puca

A physician assistant student practices suturing. This class was among the first to return to in-person instruction on campus.

This academic year at WMU has been unlike any other, requiring flexibility, resilience and grace from the entire campus community to support a high-quality academic experience that has put health and safety at the forefront in the face of a global pandemic.

WMU’s strategy includes a modified academic calendar, a diverse mix of course types that includes in-person, experiential learning and physically distanced classroom environments.

Classes have been structured around safety protocols to assure that classes of 70 and fewer meet in physically distanced classrooms with proper safety precautions, larger classes have been taught via distance education and priority in-person learning has been given to experiential and hands-on learning in small-capacity classrooms.

In-person learning courses meet physically in classrooms, laboratories or other instructional spaces on scheduled meeting days and times. Students are offered hands-on or participatory learning in a physical format that requires wearing a mask and interacting with social distancing measures in place.

Hybrid learning courses meet both in-person and through virtual delivery with 51% or more of the instruction occurring through distance education, either asynchronously or synchronously. Asynchronous content delivery takes place virtually without any scheduled meetings, whereas synchronous content delivery takes place virtually with scheduled meetings. The hybrid format is used when some of the course delivery requires hands-on or participatory learning scenarios in a physical format.

Distance education has both asynchronous and fully synchronous learning options as well as partially synchronous learning. While there are no in-person sessions, instructors can offer flexible schedules to meet coursework and student needs. Partially synchronous learning allows instructors to incorporate periodic synchronous virtual sessions when the subject matter requires real-time demonstration, collaboration or interaction.

As we've navigated this unprecedented period, WMU students, faculty, staff and leaders have remained flexible in responding to this novel coronavirus to ensure we are balancing educational excellence with health and safety realities.