Beloit College moves from traditional semesters to two-course modules to allow for flexibility next fall in case of continued closures.

“Leaders of Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, obviously are not alone in trying to plan for the upcoming academic year in a period of great uncertainty. As at almost every other college and university across the country, administrators are having to prepare for various scenarios. Can in-person learning resume in time for the fall, or will students need to start their fall coursework online? If in-person learning does resume, will it need to be suspended again if COVID-19 cases begin to increase?

“We’re making all these weighty decisions about the future and what to do with refunds for room and board, and at the height of all that decision making, it felt a lot like triage, a lot like a defensive posture,” said Eric Boynton, Beloit’s provost. He asked himself, “What is the decisive step that we can take at this moment” to inspire confidence and hope in what the fall will look like?

To that end, Beloit has announced that it is breaking the semester into two modules in which students take two courses each.

“The aspiration is to have a residential learning experience next year, but if COVID rages, this flexibility allows us to have it only affect half a semester, possibly,” Boynton said. “Let’s say it creeps into September, then that first module is online, but if continues to dissipate, then we’re able to bring students at this hinge point. It’s a break in the semester; it’s an obvious time to bring students into residence.”

“It also lessens the disruption in the sense of conducting four online courses at one time is a lot of pressure for faculty, and what we’re finding — and I think this is not just at Beloit but across the nation — is that juggling four online courses is a lot for students,” he said. “Limiting the online experience to two courses at a time is better for faculty and staff and student learning.”

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