East Carolina University will shift to an eight-week block schedule during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Acting Provost Grant Hayes announced on May 11 in an emailed statement that ECU will shift to a block schedule which would break each semester in half.
In the emailed statement, Hayes said that students will take the same number of courses throughout a semester, but the class load would be split between two eight-week blocks.
“There will be minor changes to the registration process for new registrations and for students who want to make schedule changes. Students who have already registered for classes will have their existing schedules migrated to the new format for them. It is not yet determined how classes will be assigned to each block,” Hayes said in an emailed statement.
In the emailed statement, Hayes said a faculty task force was created in order to help professors make the shift to the new block schedule.
Hayes said in his statement that the main reason for making the shift to a block schedule is to guarantee that social distancing measures can continue into the school year. He said in the statement that he also hopes this change will help battle the spread of the virus during the next two semesters.
“For students and faculty, block scheduling would minimize the number of contacts they experience during each 8-week block. They would only be exposed to individuals in two to three classes instead of individuals from four to five different classes,” Hayes said in the emailed statement.
Hayes said an additional important aspect of the new schedule is that it allows for flexibility during the pandemic, allowing the university to easily shift either remote or face-to-face learning depending on how the situation develops.
The university does plan to work with students who have unique schedules in order to guarantee they are still able to participate in the programs they want to, according to Hayes.
“We realize that there will need to be exceptions for internships and other experiential learning opportunities, and for some classes that can’t convert to the block schedule,” Hayes said. “We would appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue to plan and monitor the impacts of COVID-19.”
English professor Margaret Bauer, who is also senator on ECU’s faculty senate, said that during a senate meeting, Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson told faculty that the main reason for the switch online was mostly a financial decision.
Some of the major concerns among faculty are the time crunch to get a working schedule for the eight-week blocks as well as the health threats to professors who may have autoimmune deficiencies, according to Bauer.
“We were told at the (faculty) senate meeting in April that they were thinking about it, and then we heard the next day that it was a done deal. And still, as a faculty member, I have not received an email, which I had asked about, saying ‘hey let us know if you have autoimmune issues and can’t teach face-to-face,’” Bauer said.
Bauer said professors are concerned about students getting a high-quality education, but they are also worried about their own health. She cited seeing parties happening at grid housing as a reason to be wary of teaching come the fall, because these parties are not safe and allow for easy transmission of the virus.
Sophomore business major Colton Robbins said he is concerned about coming to campus come fall.
“Sitting in a small room where tons of people have been sitting is just not something that I really want to be doing while there’s a potentially lethal virus going around,” Robbins said.
Residence hall living would be dangerous, Robbins said, with a large number of people living in a confined space and sharing amenities. He said he feels that it’s only a matter of if, not when, multiple students at the university contract the virus.
Updates on how ECU is handling the pandemic can be found on the coronavirus updates page hosted by the university.