TORRINGTON – On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) began it’s 2021 Spring semester by opening its doors for in-person learning after finishing the fall 2020 semester online.
Classes at the Torrington campus will start with in-person delivery, but at the Douglas campus, students will begin the semester online until it is safe to return.
EWC officials will evaluate the state and county trends of the coronavirus to determine if it is still safe to attend in-person classes, or if classes at the Douglas campus can be moved back to in person.
“The college crisis team has a data-driven matrix/rubric in place that assesses data for the county every three weeks and determines whether it is safe to return in person,” said Sherri Warren, Assistant Professor and Department Head for Math/Science at the Douglas campus.
During the fall semester, classes were moved online shortly before the Thanksgiving break because of the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in Goshen county. Professors at EWC had been preparing for this possibility and many were ready for the switch when it happened.
“We had been prepared for that [switch] last semester during the fall,” said Kate Steinbock, Professor and Department Head of Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences. “We were already prepared for students not to come back after the Thanksgiving break, so when we had to go online, it wasn’t really a big deal for anybody.”
Since classes were moved online last semester, professors should feel more comfortable teaching in an online environment after having to switch from face-to-face learning in the fall to strictly online.
While the switch was an adjustment for some, others like Warren had been preparing for the change and had a plan in place for success.
“I planned the [fall] semester so that the content for the face-to-face classes were taught by Thanksgiving break,” Warren said. “Students just had to come to office hours or make an appointment through Zoom if they had questions on the few assignments that were still due.”
With the pandemic still surging across the country, professors at EWC are prepared for things to be ever-changing as the spring semester continues.
In an effort to keep classes in person this semester, students and faculty will be required to wear their masks while on campus, even if it’s possible to maintain a social distance of at least six feet. Professors will also be cleaning off desks and surface areas touched by students to help combat the virus.
“I think the faculty are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to continue with our face-to-face course offering throughout the entire semester,” Steinbock said. “Faculty are doing what they can to keep their students safe and healthy, and doing what they can to keep each other safe and healthy.”
While EWC is planning to be face-to-face for the entire semester, there still remains the possibility that things could go back online and, depending on how late into the semester that change happens, would determine if students would return back for face-to-face classes.
“If it was late in the semester, there would be no need to come back face-to-face,” Steinbock said. “If it’s before spring break, like right away, then yes, I think it would be the administration’s plan to get back to face-to-face.”