New Hybrid Instructional Model: Chestnut Hill College Prepares to Welcome Students Back to Campus for Spring

Images via Chestnut Hill College.
Redesign of classes to combine online, hybrid, split hybrid, and in-person are a critical piece of the College’s return plan.

For over 97 years, Chestnut Hill College has remained committed to putting its students first. The pursuit of academic excellence and educating the whole person in an environment that prioritizes innovation, education, and personal development has always been at the forefront of CHC’s mission.

For that reason, the College is thrilled to be able to welcome students back to campus this spring, for a socially engaged but physically distant semester, which will focus on all elements of health and wellness for the entire campus community.

“I wish to share that the decision to return to campus comes after a careful and thorough review of guidance from the state and includes the implementation of a number of new health and safety protocols for our returning students,” wrote Sister Carol Jean Vale, Ph.D., President, in an update to the campus community. “

Under the leadership of our COVID-19 Task Force, the College will implement a low-density, hybrid model of instruction that will offer both in-person and virtual instruction, with reduced classroom capacity to permit effective social distancing.

In convening the COVID-19 Task Force, Chestnut Hill College took into careful consideration the guidance provided by city and state officials, including the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, as well as protocols from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As these guidelines have changed frequently due to new knowledge about the virus, the COVID-19 Task Force is committed to continuing to follow and rely on any updated information that it receives.

With representatives from all areas of the College including academics, student life, mission and ministry and athletics, as well as input from students, faculty, and staff, the COVID-19 Task Force created a comprehensive plan to inform this semester.

By implementing these changes, the College is confident that the Spring 2021 semester, while different, will be one that is engaging to all in the campus community, especially the students.

“We know that a successful reopening will require the vigilance, cooperation, and dedication of everyone at Chestnut Hill College,” says Michael Reig, JD, Registrar and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force.

“In these unprecedented times we have already witnessed so many examples of the strength and dedication of our community and we are confident this commitment will make Spring 2021, while certainly far from our old normal, an opportunity for continued growth and unity.”

While on campus living and learning will continue this semester, the College is cognizant that not everyone is comfortable returning at this time. To that extent, the Academic Affairs office has created a unique and sustainable model to allow virtual learning to continue in various ways.

While some students will be back in new physically distanced classrooms, the majority of the population will take a series of online and hybrid courses, of which CHC has expanded its offerings to meet the needs of the entire student body.

Students in graduate and accelerated adult degree programs will be taking their courses exclusively online, a decision that according to Vice President of Academic Affairs, Chris Dougherty, Ph.D., was “based in large part on feedback from faculty and students in each program, as online learning provided flexibility for our programs and learners and also created the opportunity to create a low-density, hybrid model for the delivery of School of Undergraduate Studies programs.” 

Redesign of classes to a combination of fully online, hybrid, split hybrid, and in-person are a critical piece of the College’s return plan.

Approximately two-thirds of the spring sections will be offered fully online. In-person classrooms will allow for at least six feet of distance between all individuals and will be operating at 25% of the maximum capacity. 

In accordance with state guidelines, no one room will have more than 25 individuals present for classes as well as for campus events/activities. In addition to distancing, the College will be following a universal facemask policy, with facemasks required to be worn at all times, with the exception of when eating.

“We know that for the Spring semester we are facing a pandemic that continues to evolve and while we realize that taking courses in a fully face-to-face format in the classroom is highly desired for most of our SUS students, we also know that many students are constrained by circumstances caused by the pandemic and feel that they cannot come to campus to pursue their educations at this time,” says Jacki Reich, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies. 

Returning to life on campus offers both its challenges and its rewards and Chestnut Hill College is prepared to face both head-on with a sense of creativity and resilience that has always defined the work of the College.

“The campus we will be returning to in Spring 2021 will not be the same campus we are accustomed to,” says Krista Bailey Murphy, Ph.D., Dean of Students and Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force.

“Our campus will be a place where the rules of physical distancing will govern our interactions and where every member of the community will be wearing a mask. We will be living and learning in a new world with new rules, but the spirit that has always guided Chestnut Hill College will still be with us,” she says.