Drake University faculty and students were left reeling after a surprise announcement Tuesday stating classes would move online almost two weeks before the previously announced week of Thanksgiving.
The university announced classes would move online starting Nov. 11 after cases around the country, including Iowa and the Des Moines Metro area, started to skyrocket.
“We are moving to full virtual delivery early because of the increasing incidence of the virus in the community around us and the strain this is putting on local health care resources,” President Marty Martin said in his email to campus.
Drake announced at the beginning of the semester classes would move to virtual following Thanksgiving break as a precaution to protect the Drake community from COVID-19.
The email from Martin as well as subsequent emails from other members of campus administration urge students to leave campus early if they can avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 in a community where it is running rampant.
Kim Smith, an adjunct instructor of journalism at Drake said faculty knew about the announcement shortly before students.
Smith said he is teaching one class during the fall semester, Reporting and Writing Principles. He teaches the class in a hybrid form, students attending both in person and virtually.
“It’s gotten to, usually only two or three people from the class show up for the in-person,” Smith said, noting as the semester progressed more students chose to attend class through Zoom.
Ellen Everhart, a sophomore pre-occupational therapy major, had half of her classes online and the other half in person this semester.
After Thanksgiving, Everhart said two of her in-person classes would end, both being labs.
Everhart said her other two classes planned to switch to online after Thanksgiving but made the transition earlier than expected following the announcement.
“The two that were meeting in person, we did the half and half thing… Now they’re meeting both days online,” Everhart said.
Smith said he is uncertain about what the spring semester will bring for Drake students, staff and faculty, although he anticipates it to be similar to the fall.
“There’s been no official word from the administration,” Smith said.
Students also doubt classes will return to normal right away at the start of spring semester.
“I think it’s too soon to make an accurate prediction at this time,” Everhart said. “But with my current knowledge I foresee us doing the first two weeks online and then returning for in-person or hybrid classes… I don’t see the numbers dropping that dramatically before then. With the numbers still rising I don’t think it’s going to change that much in just two months.”
The university currently plans for the first two weeks of classes to be taught online, then classes after that can be in person or online at the professors’ discretion.