“Reasons for module-based semester” letter to Beloit students

Dear students,

Some of you have expressed a desire to know more about why moving to a module-based semester makes sense as a way of approaching this coming Fall. Below, we hope to clarify some of the elements that were weighed in the decision.

First and foremost, we value the learning experiences that happen on our campus alongside our shared health and safety. No one prefers remote instruction over in-person learning at Beloit, and our in-real-life, grounded community is what makes Beloit the distinctive place it is. So, we desperately want a way to have as many of you and your peers on campus as we can next year, for as long as we can, so long as we can be sure that the community’s health and safety are not put at risk by our being there.

Second, and just as importantly at this moment, we fundamentally cannot predict whether, when, or to what degree COVID-19 will again pose a challenge to all of us remaining on campus. There are a bunch of potential futures that might become reality in the Fall:

  • we might need to resume social distancing for a stretch of time;
  • there might be limits placed on social gatherings;
  • higher education institutions might again encourage students to move off-campus (and continue coursework through remote technologies);
  • some localities or countries might have “shelter-in-place” recommendations or travel bans that would prevent some of you or your peers from coming to campus;
  • and individual families might want their Beloiters to continue their education remotely until COVID-19 is definitively no longer a threat.

We needed a model for learning that would be able to adapt to all of the above scenarios and still be able to get as many of you on campus as we can, for as long as we can. The module system does two crucial things to help you and your peers, our faculty, and our institution cope, especially in case one or more of the above possibilities comes true in the Fall.

First, it shortens the amount of time needed to complete a unit’s worth of credit. We will not face what we are facing now: seven weeks of remote learning so you can finish course units that were started in January. Even if we have to switch to or from remote learning mid-module, that switch will only affect two of your total units for fewer than seven weeks of time. The shortened unit-completion time also allows those of you who may face a travel ban in September to arrive on campus in time to start “fresh” for the second module.

Second, the module system reduces the number and variety of courses you and faculty will need to juggle at any given time. Whether remotely or on campus this Fall, it is likely that news and updates about COVID-19—and, for an unknown number of us, the trauma we and our families may experience between now and then—will continue to impact our stress and energy levels, concentration levels, and levels of motivation. Being able to tackle just two courses in shorter bursts of time (as opposed to four-plus courses over four months) is going to help us all (faculty and administrators included!) be better able to succeed in our educational aims.

If you have any questions about returning to campus in the Fall or your Fall classes, please feel free to send them to your advisor(s) or to covid-19@beloit.edu. We are trying to respond to all emails sent to that account within 24 hours. You can also investigate the Fall 2020 FAQ page, which we and others will be continuing to update in response to your questions and concerns.

You have the right to feel worried and anxious right now about how things are going to look in the Fall. We hope that you can maintain a sense of good faith in our intentions as we all work to build an adaptable, compassionate, high-quality, and Beloitish plan for the upcoming year.

Hang in there, Beloiters, and we really, really, really look forward to seeing you all again soon!

Eric Boynton
Matt Tedesco
Kristin Bonnie
Lisl Walsh
Ted Gries
Lisa Anderson-Levy
Mary Boros-Kazai

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