NEW ALBANY — Indiana University Southeast is continuing its measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the spring semester begins.

The spring semester will start Jan. 19 with three weeks of virtual learning only, and classes may begin offering in-person learning Feb. 8. Like the fall semester, the majority of classes will remain virtual or hybrid.

Kelly Ryan, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, said IUS is maintaining the same approach for COVID-19 mitigation on campus.

“We felt we should keep it where it is,” she said. “IU Southeast is proud of being a campus with small class sizes. It’s feasible in some areas to possibly increase some in-person instruction, but we don’t want to put staff and students at risk. It’s simply not the time.

“When the summer arrives and vaccines start arriving to the general population, then we can move back to more interaction and more face-to-face classes.”

Ryan said there has been no major outbreak on campus, and she said the university’s approach toward the pandemic likely reduced spread in the community.

IUS has been implementing — in addition to symptomatic COVID-19 testing — a mitigation testing to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Students staff and faculty can now sign up for free asymptomatic testing, which is taking place at the IUS Multipurpose Building.

“We’re continuing that — [the testing measures have] proven really effective so we know where our campus is at,” Ryan said. “We’re at consistently lower rates than the rest of the community, and we let people know early on if they’re asymptomatic.”

Ryan said that in hybrid classes, many students are opting for the online option instead of in-person.

Joe Wert, professor of political science and president of IUS’s Faculty Senate, said it has been a learning curve adapting his curriculum to a virtual platform.

He had never taught online classes before, but last semester, all of his classes were virtual.

In the fall, Wert was teaching asynchronous classes in which he recorded the classes for students to listen to at their convenience. Some online lessons are synchronous, or occurring at a set time. His office hours took place over Zoom.

Wert said he still is in the process of learning to help students through the online learning, and it is challenging to keep track of how students are doing when they are not in the classroom.

“I think the biggest thing is just maintaining that connection with students,” he said. “It’s much more difficult to do that online than when you are in the classroom with them. It’s more difficult to know whether they are getting the material, are they understanding, plus gauging their level of stress and anxiety and whether they are struggling with things.”

In the spring, one of his courses will be a hybrid class in which half of the class attends in-person one day and the other half attends in-person another day. The class will be online the other days.

Wert hopes to become more adept at using various technologies, including recording equipment available at IUS.

In addition to offering COVID-19 testing for students and staff, the campus began a COVID-19 vaccination clinic Monday in collaboration with the Floyd County Health Department. The clinic is at the Evergreen East parking lot by the multipurpose building.

The vaccines are limited now to specific groups and offered by appointment. IUS nursing students are participating in the vaccine administration, which is part of their coursework.

“Indiana University Southeast is proud to be part of this historic action,” said IUS Chancellor Ray Wallace in a Jan. 8 news release.

“To not only host this clinic that will help us defeat the virus, but to have our student nurses involved with administering the shots, demonstrates the commitment to our community by Indiana University and that we are indeed a community partner.”

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