Professors, students will have to adapt to new spring break schedule
With WSU planning to cancel spring break, I had several questions about how this might impact our class scheduling. I wanted to know how easy it would be for professors to incorporate the changes into their classes.
Mary Wack, WSU vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement, said the semester will be a week shorter, and students can think of spring break as being moved to the start of the semester. The three additional classless days and two holidays result in five additional days off for students. Wack said the additional days are “definite, specified days off,” and will be the same across all classes.
Wack said she thinks the change will not impact the workload or number of assignments in classes.
“It’s just a question of where an individual faculty member would put the existing assignments within the calendar,” Wack said.
With that said, I do believe Wack’s logic — this shouldn’t mess up the schedule too badly.
As faculty have not started planning for spring 2021 yet, Wack said she thinks it will be a little while before there are any details about changes to professors’ spring syllabi. Although it may be difficult for some lab courses, Wack said adjusting the schedule is likely to be simple for many faculty members as it is primarily a question of shifting a week at the front.
Individual classes will have to pay attention to which days students are off, and I am not sure whether the days off will disproportionately impact Monday, Wednesday, Friday courses or Tuesday and Thursday courses, but I expect the university will consider that factor.
Wack said that aside from the few courses that require hands-on learning — operating on an exception basis — courses will continue to be online. Even some in-person classes may not be entirely in person and will have a hybrid course format.
The combination of online learning and a reconfigured break is intended to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases. I would say it is more accurate to say that WSU has shifted spring break rather than canceled it. There is still a break, just not in the spring.
Peter Chilson, professor of writing and literature, said for him, personally, the changes do not have a significant impact on his work.
“As an English professor who teaches creative writing and literature, it’s pretty easy for me, within the Zoom environment, to work within whatever schedule they give me,” Chilson said.
He said he has heard that professors in science and engineering may have other difficulties or concerns but thinks the university is trying to do its best for students and faculty alike.
As a result of the Zoom environment, Chilson said his teaching became more fluid and while he has set class times, he also will meet students on Zoom outside of class frequently. He said he plans to continue meeting students as needed.
“I find that the attendance is a lot better,” Chilson said. “The quality of the work [the students] are turning in is more focused, it’s sharper.”
While Chilson said it could just be the chemistry of the students in his classes, as this is the first full semester online, he has had positive experiences with Zoom learning.
“Students seem to want to meet on Zoom, one-on-one and in small groups, they’re very open to it,” Chilson said.
He said he would prefer to be back to face-to-face learning, but the Zoom environment is surprisingly positive and makes scheduling more flexible for him.
As professors and students will have had more experience with Zoom learning come spring, and the university is trying to give everyone time to decompress by reconfiguring break, I am hopeful that spring semester will go smoothly.
As much as the plan to cancel spring break irked me when I first learned of it, I am trying to look at it differently. The university is not taking away spring break, it is merely moving it around.
I still dislike this plan, mostly because I wish WSU did not feel it was necessary, but none of us have had to deal with a pandemic like this before. It is safe to say the university is doing what it can.