Now that we’re in September it seems that every day offers examples of colleges and universities switching between in-person and online education. The Toggle Term is now in play.
To recap: a Toggle Term is when a college or university switches between online and in-person education during a semester for COVID-19-related reasons. Examples to date include: Colorado College, Gettysburg College, James Madison University, North Carolina State University, Notre Dame, SUNY Oneonta, Temple University, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Maybe I should probably set up a dedicated page or spreadsheet for this topic, unless someone else already has one. Perhaps a counter widget, too.
The University of Wyoming announced it would suspend face-to-face education for a week as infections rose.
Their language is interesting – Wyoming “paused its phased fall return plan for a five-day period to more fully assess the prevalence of COVID-19 infection among the UW community.” Paused is a word we’ve seen elsewhere. It might be the new term of art, like “out of an abundance of caution.”
Note that Wyoming followed an established virus plan, including a toggle threshold:
The COVID contingency plan previously approved by UW’s Board of Trustees directs that five or more positive tests of symptomatic individuals among UW students and employees in Laramie in a single day would prompt a pause of five business days.
Here’s what the “pause” looks like:
Under the pause plan, which may be found here, the university is taking steps that include:
— Instructing students in UW campus housing and others in Laramie to shelter in place.
— Delivering all courses online; no in-person classes will be conducted during the five-day period.
— Directing all employees, with the exception of those designated by supervisors as critical pause personnel, to work remotely.
— Suspending all face-to-face activities, unless approval is given through an exception process.
Yesterday Lock Haven University switched from in-person to online learning. Infections were rising:
The university had set a 5% positivity rate for its voluntary testing program as a threshold to reevaluate whether on-campus learning is safe. The announcement said that, as of Tuesday morning, the rate was 4.9%, triggering the suspension.
As of Wednesday morning, the university had conducted 891 tests in total and has 43 positives, yielding a 4.82% positivity rate.
I’m glad to see that they, too, have a clear threshold. Readers might recall my earlier, frustrated hunt for same. Perhaps a number of institutions determined such thresholds, but not publicaly.
However, Lock Haven wasn’t fully in person. Only about 15% of students were on site. Perhaps we should call this a partial toggle.
Thinking about viral spread, I note that Lock Haven is about 35 miles from Penn State University.
Elsewhere, Northwestern University caught flak for sending half of its undergraduates home after 9 days on campus.
…only third- and fourth-year students would be permitted to return to campus, take in-person classes and live in residence halls. The decision, communicated just nine days before move-in was scheduled to start, clashed with the school’s summer efforts to accommodate everyone who wanted to come back.
Other campuses present symptoms of potential Toggle Terms. Indiana University just quarantined more than three fourths of its Greek houses. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign “expects all undergraduate students, for their own protection, to significantly restrict in-person activities.” UPDATED: now UI wants to shut the whole fraternity and sorority system down: “students will be forced to find alternative housing.” I’m still tracking the University of South Carolina, Georgia College, Adrian College, Illinois State, the University of South Carolina, and everything in Iowa.
Meanwhile, as of Monday 24% of American colleges and universities have not yet announced their fall plans, according to the Chronicle of Higher Ed. About 21% are still opening up entirely or mostly in person.