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the priority with new block schedule, hybrid learning COVID-19 has been a little like baseball’s most elusive pitch, the knuckleball. Not even the pitcher knows if a knuckleball is moving up or down, left or right or straight down the center of the plate. Likewise, when Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict started to plan for the 2020-21 school year with the ongoing pandemic still impacting day-to-day life, there were some variables to consider. But there was no variable for one element of that plan: bringing students, faculty and staff back to campus safely and reestablishing the community SJU and CSB are known for, according to members of the Scenario Planning Committee composed of representatives from both institutions. To help safeguard the community, SJU and CSB announced June 8 that they will institute a block schedule with hybrid learning for the 2020-21 academic year. “Our priority in addressing the fall (schedule) was to identify a plan that would allow the community to return to campus in the safest way possible,” said Barb May, academic dean at SJU and CSB and a member of the
planning committee chaired by Provost Richard Ice. “We are still meeting to address other needs as we prepare for fall and will continue to meet into the academic year to allow the institutions to adapt as we learn what COVID-19 is doing and how the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines change,” May added.
BLOCK SCHEDULE TO MEET SAFETY DEMANDS In the block schedule, each semester is divided into four-week blocks. During each block, students will take one four-credit class for a three-hour period four days a week. One- and two-credit classes will be offered on Wednesdays. Faculty will mostly teach one course during each block. There will be some exceptions. Students may have a one- or two-credit class or take a lab in addition to the fourcredit course, and some faculty will be teaching a lab during this same time. This structure supports the safety components that COVID-19 demands. Students and faculty will move across each campus less frequently, which creates safer situations in dining areas and busing by reducing the number of trips people will make on The Link.
Two SJU/CSB faculty members who know the ins and outs of the block schedule are history Professor Gregory Schroeder and political science Professor Claire Haeg. Both are members of the Scenario Planning Committee and the four-member Academic Schedule group (with Dean of the Faculty Pam Bacon and May) that drafted the proposal for the block plan with hybrid learning. The Academic Schedule group was a sub-group of the larger planning committee. Schroeder said that faculty will “have to rethink our courses fundamentally” with the new schedule. “Faculty have generally responded by asking for information to prepare for success in the fall: How many class periods per block? When will two-credit courses be offered? How will we teach capstones? When can I practice with the new classroom technology? Faculty are eager to redesign their courses, and spaces in faculty development workshops have filled quickly,” Schroeder said. “This will be a different way of teaching, and for me it really involves thinking through how I cover the same learning goals in an intense and focused way,” said Haeg, who also served on the