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Vt. state colleges offer choices for online, on-campus learning

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 5:59 PM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Two more state colleges announced their plans for fall learning on Wednesday-- Castleton University and Vermont Technical College. Our Cat Viglienzoni brings you up to speed on how the system is grappling with the challenges of COVID-19.

The dorms at Castleton will be open this fall but the classrooms will be closed. All learning will happen remotely.

“It’s really about giving them the choice to make their own decision to best suit them. Also, in the event that the state issues another stay-at-home order, our courses are already online,” said James Lambert, the associate dean of advancement at Castleton University.

Castleton says making the choice to move classes fully online also allows teachers certainty to plan their courses, saying the logistics of a hybrid learning approach were challenging. We asked Lambert if they think students will want to pay to live on campus.

"We'll find that out soon," he said. "We don't know exactly what to expect other than we've heard from students who really like this sort of option and they want to be here. And we've heard from students who say, I'm not comfortable living in a dormitory setting."

Castleton wasn't the only state college announcing its plans Wednesday. Vermont Technical College said it's going to be using a hybrid approach, holding lectures remotely but bringing groups of students to live and learn on campus for a week or so at a time to get the hands-on experience they need.

"A lot will be similar, but it's going to be a different delivery than having students here on campus all semester long," said Patricia Moulton, the president of Vermont Technical College.

Moulton told me this low-residency approach is something they're looking at for the future even after the virus isn't a threat to engage more students.

"We think this is good prep for our long-term as Vermont Tech goes forward with our transformation planning," Moulton said.

Each state college can take its own approach this fall. At Northern Vermont University, students can combine in-person and online learning. On-campus housing is an option there, too. President Elaine Collins says students want to come back. But they'll be prepared to go home if the state closes campus.

"We have to be able to pivot and we are prepared to pivot. As a matter of fact, every student will be coming in with a personal evacuation plan so they have a plan if we have to pivot to fully remote," Collins said.

CCV has the most flexibility offering five different formats for its classes so students can tailor how much in-person and remote learning they want, as well as when classes start and how long they run. And being community college, they have no housing for students.

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