Return to Classes: What You Need to Know

By Emanuele Calianno, Editor-in-Chief


The Fall 2020 semester is underway with significant changes and adaptations to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is what students need to know about their classes: 

 Online classes for the fall semester began on September 2. In-person classes were scheduled to begin on the same day, but a last-minute decision by the Board of Trustees has delayed reopening the campus to September 21.

Only about 15 percent of the student body will return to campus. The Hackensack campus will be closed, with limited access to the Paramus and Lyndhurst locations, the college said in an email this summer. 

The decision to reopen was made by a special reopening committee, which included administrators and faculty along with a member of the Bergen County Department of Health Services.

Dr. Larry Hlavenka, spokesperson for BCC and a member of the committee, said that the number of entrances will be limited and controlled in each building. Students and staff who enter will have to go through a thermal scanner, and fill out a self-assessment risk form. Anyone going from one building to another will be required to go through these steps again.

Over the controversial topic of masks, the college is taking a rigid stance. “Masks are a requirement; anyone not wearing one will not be allowed inside,” said Hlavenka. This comes in contrast with many local school districts who have said they would not be able to enforce the use of masks. 

Classes on campus have been limited to those related to Biology, Culinary Arts, Horticulture, and Health Professions, the college said in an email this summer. All other classes will be held entirely online this semester.  

Students will continue to have virtual access to services such as the library,  tutoring, the bookstore, and academic advising. 

Online classes will be offered in three types: synchronous, asynchronous, and online mix.
Synchronous classes will require students to be present at live lectures held on WebEx, while asynchronous classes have no meeting requirements, in line with the traditional method of online instruction at Bergen. 

Synchronous classes were offered last spring by a small number of faculty, but the college has expanded synchronous offerings for the fall. The college conducted a study on the effectiveness of online instruction last spring, and found that many students enjoyed this format, said Dr. Brock Fisher, Vice President of Academic Affairs. 

Despite their popularity, only about 28 percent of classes will be synchronous, according to internal college documents. Dr. Alan Kaufman, Chairperson of the Faculty Senate and a member of the reopening committee, said professors were given freedom to choose the format they preferred. This means each professor will be able to choose their own method to provide lecture material and assign work.

Concerns were raised by students last semester over some faculty’s decision to not use the online portal Moodle, assigning lectures and material via email instead. Fisher said the college held training on online instruction over the summer, which was offered on a voluntary basis, as faculty contracts do not require them to work over the summer. 

“You have some very senior professors, who have never taught an online course before,” said Kaufman. “I think the majority of people who struggled last semester have gotten help in figuring it out.”

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