Oberlin students are innovators that not only adapt to situations but also change them for the better. Oberlin College likewise is an innovative college, and as innovators do, Oberlin is setting the standard while a new normal is being created.
It has been frequently questioned whether or not students across the country would be able to return to their colleges in the fall, and if so how would the students be protected from Coronavirus? Last week, Oberlin answered that question with a plan that not only allows students to return to campus but also has layered safety measurements in place to fight against COVID-19.
During this time of social distancing, it was unclear how college students could return to campus living, as it is typically two persons to a dorm room while using communal bathrooms. To add to that, college students almost always stay in the physical vicinity of close friends and often study in large groups.
Oberlin has created an ingenious solution to this problem by adding a third semester to the school year. This will allow the campus to be de-densified as students will be spread out over the three semesters instead of two. For example, third-year students will be on campus in the spring and summer, while first-year students will be on campus in the fall and spring. With fewer students on campus, Oberlin will be able to provide every student with a single room and have meals served on the go.
Oberlin has also recognized that this is not a one size fits all method and has made specific adjustments to the three-semester plan for international students, as well as conservatory students, among others. Recognizing that just de-densification isn’t enough, Oberlin has an extensive COVID-19 testing plan that will have 25% of the student population tested each week. On top of that, The Hotel at Oberlin will shift to a quarantine space if any student comes down with the Coronavirus.
In terms of what classroom learning will look like, Oberlin will extend the workweek into Saturdays; this will allow for classes to be even more de-densified. Students will maintain a 6-foot distance from each other while in class to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While there will be plenty of in-person classes, some classes will also be offered online, as well as hybrid classes that will be both online and in person.
One of the things I find most interesting is the junior practicum Oberlin has scheduled for third-year students during the fall semester. During the practicum, Oberlin will connect students with alumni that will provide the students with remote internship opportunities. Oberlin will also compensate the students for the work they do at the internship. This is a tremendous resume building opportunity that I hope Oberlin will maintain even once the pandemic is over!
Oberlin is taking every step to not only provide the best educational experience possible but also maintain the health of the student population. Shifting the campus to a three-semester plan is a bold move that will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. With the creation of a layered strategy to fight against COVID-19, Oberlin has made it possible to return to campus for the upcoming school year. I am proud to say that I am a student at the college that is revolutionizing the ‘‘new normal!’’