Trine expecting successful spring with enhanced COVID measures
Trine University had a “highly successful” fall semester through the COVID-19 pandemic, said John Shannon, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs, and the spring should be even better.
“The fall was the first time we did a full semester using online and hybrid learning,” he said. “Now that we’ve been through the process, we’ve been able to make improvements so that it should work even more smoothly.”
The university, which is experiencing very strong enrollment once again for the spring semester following record numbers on its main campus in the fall, has implemented additional measures to enhance the student educational experience while keeping Trine students, staff and the greater community safe.
“Though we celebrate that we were able to successfully host in-person classes through the entire fall semester, we realize that the battle against this pandemic is ongoing,” said Earl D. Brooks II, Ph.D., Trine University president. “We continue to do everything we can to provide the best educational experience for our students while limiting the spread of COVID-19 on our campus and in Steuben County.”
Before being allowed to attend spring classes, students were required to submit a negative COVID test result.
The university has expanded its COVID Response Team to add more contact tracers, and has made investments to better communicate with students in isolation or quarantine. It also has added quarantine and isolation space on- and off-campus while making improvements to off-campus spaces.
Trine’s Student Health Center can now perform COVID-19 testing on campus, providing reduced wait times for results while lessening the strain on community resources and limiting potential exposure for students who feel ill.
Larger non-academic areas like the gymnasiums in Hershey Hall will not be used as classroom space this semester, thanks to more strategic scheduling. Some classes that had to move to a hybrid model last semester to meet COVID capacity guidelines will be able to meet entirely in person thanks to installation of Plexiglas barriers.
“Dr. Ryan Overton, dean of the Allen School of Engineering, Deb Helmsing, registrar, and Rod Olson, assistant vice president for campus operations, went into every classroom space to evaluate what was needed,” Shannon said. “As a result, all classes for the spring semester fit into our classrooms.”
Faculty will be required to record classes when a student is absent, no matter the reason. Recordings will be emailed to absent students or made available in Moodle, Trine’s online learning management system.
Faculty have received and will continue to receive additional instruction on applications such as Zoom and Moodle as well as more general topics related to online teaching. Shannon said Trine’s IT department offered 15 training sessions for faculty during the winter break, while the university’s Center for Teaching Excellence has conducted training sessions on topics such as important elements in virtual instruction and teaching in hybrid mode.
“IT also has provided training for students on navigating the virtual environment and applications such as Zoom and Moodle,” Shannon said.
Online versions of popular student activities will be offered throughout the spring semester, including Bingo for Bucks, virtual entertainers and yoga sessions. An online alumni vs. students trivia competition and virtual escape room are planned, along with an intramural esports league.
Thunder athletic teams are scheduled to compete throughout the spring. For now, athletes, coaches and staff will be masked during practices and competitions, with no spectators allowed. Games will be live-streamed as much as possible on the Trine Broadcasting Network.
COVID-19 testing will be conducted per NCAA and MIAA protocols. Facilities will be thoroughly cleaned between each event.
Matt Land, assistant vice president for athletics, said the university has developed a comprehensive schedule to accommodate not only COVID-19 restrictions, but the move of fall sports conference schedules to the spring.
“We are optimistic that we will continue to provide a vibrant campus experience and quality instruction while keeping our students, staff and the community safe, just as we did in the fall,” said Brooks. “The situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, and we hope that vaccination efforts and other public measures will soon bring this pandemic to the end. In the meantime, we will make adjustments as needed, keeping the health and safety of all first and foremost.”
Photo: Two Trine University students prepare for finals in the LINK, the university library, at the end of the fall semester. The university has implemented additional COVID-19 measures for the spring semester to enhance the student educational experience while keeping Trine students, staff and the greater community safe. (Photo by Dean Orewiler)