Arizona Colleges, Universities Starting Spring Semester With More Online Classes, COVID-19 Testing

Published: Monday, January 11, 2021 - 8:36am
Updated: Monday, January 11, 2021 - 9:54am

Arizona colleges and universities are planning to continue offering a combination of in-person, hybrid and online classes, and implement COVID-19 mitigation strategies as they start their spring semesters this week. One big difference this semester is the cancellation of spring semester due to COVID-19-related concerns. 

Here's what students and employees across the state can expect.

Arizona State University

ASU is starting it's semester in learning mode 2 and housing mode 3 of operation, university President Michael Crow announced Friday. Learning mode 2 means instruction will be delivered in a hybrid fashion giving students the option to attend classes virtual, or come to campus for in-person classes offered at a reduced capacity. 

This is disappointing to the ASU Community of Care Coalition, which is made up of a group of ASU students and employees. 

“We think that at a moment when Arizona leads the country and perhaps even the world in new COVID-19 cases that the morally responsible thing to do would be to return to remote work and instruction at least for the first part of the semester," said Jenny Brian, a coalition spokeswoman and an honors faculty fellow with Barrett, the Honors College.

But Brian was pleased to see that ASU plans to require random COVID-19 testing for 25% of on-campus students and 25% of employees each week. She hopes the random testing will be enforced. 

Grand Canyon University

GCU started its spring semester last week completely online, and will begin face-to-face instruction on Monday with a hybrid learning model in which classrooms are at 40-50% capacity, said GCU spokesman Bob Romantic.

"This format was very successful in preventing coronavirus infections during the fall semester," he said. "Through our contact tracing efforts in the fall, it was clear that classroom/laboratory settings were not key vectors in spreading COVID-19."

Students in most academic programs can to take their classes completely online if they wish. 

In-person instruction will end April 1 for about 80% of classes  (exceptions being some programs in nursing, athletic training and senior-level engineering), followed by two weeks of online instruction April 5-16 and spring break April 19-25, Romantic said.

Maricopa County Community College District

Classes at MCCCD's colleges begin on Jan. 16. The colleges will offer a combination of in-person, hybrid and remote classes, with a majority of courses being delivered virtually, said MCCCD spokesman Matt Hasson. MCCCD will continue requiring face masks and implementing physical distancing standards, as well as increasing cleaning and disinfecting.

Northern Arizona University

NAU is starting its spring semester on Jan. 11 with mostly remote classes for the first two weeks. NAU will begin in-person instruction on Jan. 25, coupled with ongoing NAUFlex delivery. Classes will end April 29, earlier than usual since there will be no spring break in the middle of the semester.

University of Arizona 

UA is starting its spring semester on Jan. 13 with mostly remote classes, except those that are considered essential. 

UA Lecturer Nick Halsey and other members of a coalition of students and employees have been advocating for online instruction.

“I’m encouraged by that decision,” he said. “I just hope they continue to make decisions kind of in this more positive direction as we move throughout the spring semester.”  

It’s asking students who are returning to the campus from outside of Pima County to quarantine for seven days and get tested when they arrive per CDC guidelines. This includes students who test negative.

The university also plans to require students who live on campus or attend classes in-person, and certain employees who come to the main campus, get tested weekly. 

UA students who don’t comply may lose access to the campus’ Wi-Fi network, said University President Robert Robbins. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: KJZZ is licensed to the Maricopa County Community College District.

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