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Questioning the fall (#1064)

Topics/tags: Grinnell

Recently, I’ve been hearing questions from my advisees about the fall. More accurately, I’ve been hearing questions about the fall since we went online. I thought I’d address some of them here, in part to help colleagues who are likely getting asked the same questions [1,2].

What will Grinnell do this fall? Will it be in person, online, some hybrid [3]?

I don’t know much more than you do. The College will make an announcement in the first week of June. We are fortunate that Grinnell has both a large endowment [4] and reserves set aside for emergencies. That means that finances can be much less of a factor in decision making than they are at other schools. From my experiences with the people working on the decision-making process, student educational experiences and people’s health and wellness (physical and mental) are the biggest driving factors. I anticipate that, whatever we do, there will be some form of online option, since not all faculty will be comfortable teaching in person and not all students will be able to return to campus. But I could be wrong.

Given my experiences during the second half of the semester, I am worried about my ability to learn in an online environment.

That is a reasonable concern. However, if there is online learning this fall, I expect that it will be quite different than it was this spring. With additional time to plan and practice, as well as what we’ve learned this spring, we will plan things differently. I’ve heard that it’s clear that synchronous courses seem to work better for most students, provided we can work around the time issues. And, at least in my experience as a student this semester, a well-taught synchronous course feels about 90% of the experience of an in-person synchronous course [5,6]. But there are also some advantages. For example, when others were workshopping my piece, they could not see me nodding or smiling at my comments [7].

So, before you decide that you’re not willing to try online classes again, I’d suggest that you look a bit at what the online classes will be like. (I’m not quite sure how we will convey that, but we will find something.)

Suppose I decide to take the fall off, either because of health issues or because of discomfort with what learning will look like. What’s the process?

Guidelines on leaves of absence are at [8]. It appears that the College prefers that you submit your request in the semester before leave, but the College will accept requests up to the fifth day of classes in the leave semester. I suppose that would allow you to try the new form of class.

There are also additional guidelines on GrinCo at [9]. The form for requesting leaves is at [10]. You also need to meet with Joyce Stern, which I assume happens via telephone or video conference these days

Given that things for the fall are up in the air, I’m pretty sure the College will be generous about permitting leaves. I also expect that courses will be structured differently, which may make it more amenable to attending online.

If I take the fall off, is it possible for me to graduate in seven semesters?

Wow, you’re covering all the bases, aren’t you? And you’re a pessimist.

Are you sure you want to graduate in seven semesters? You’ll get few opportunities in life for the kind of learning experience you have at Grinnell? I have relished the opportunity to take Grinnell courses during my sabbaticals. But yes, I understand that Grinnell is expensive and that you may have other priorities in your life.

Graduating in seven semesters is a bit complicated. Let’s start with the general requirements for graduation.

You must take at least 124 credits, which represents 16 credits per semester for seven semesters plus 12 credits in one semester. You might have accumulated additional credits through transfer, AP, or IB courses. That is, unfortunately, a case in students with more privilege tend to end up with more options. Or perhaps you’ve taken more than sixteen credits in a semester. If you follow my recommendation to take music lessons and a wellness course each semester, you should accumulate at least an additional 10.5 credits over seven semesters. You might also have added a two-credit course in past semesters. Or perhaps you took less than sixteen.

You cannot count more than 92 credits in one division to those 124 credits. Alternately, 32 of those credits must be outside your major division.

You cannot count more than 48 credits in one department to those 124 credits. In most cases, that should be easy to achieve.

(There are a few more, such as the number of practica credits you can count. We’ll skip those)

The additional details for early graduation are at [11]. Basically, you need to apply (preferably two semesters in advance), you need the equivalent of three four-credit courses in each division, you typically need six semesters in residence, you need a good argument, and you need the application approved. In my experience, for the divisional requirement folks are reasonably lenient about counting interdisciplinary courses toward the department you prefer. For example, Political Philosophy could be counted as a Social Studies course or a Humanities course [12].

The form is available at [14].

I hope that you found my answers useful. Let me know if you have other questions.

[1] They can either use this page as a reference when talking to their students or advisees or they can point those same students to this page with disclaimers (Rebelsky is so wrong about …. I’d advise ….).

[2] I assume only the second and third answers will be useful to colleagues. I’m still answering all three questions.

[3] I’ve been searching for a good term for the hybrid of in person and online. So far, I’ve come up with inline and on person. Neither works well.

[4] Although smaller than it used to be.

[5] The percentage is made up. I have no way of measuring.

[6] No, this does not mean that you deserve a tuition discount.

[7] I’m not good at sitting silently. But we’re supposed to.

[8] Given the strangeness of that URL, I am not sure that it will persist from year to year.

[9] Since they are on GrinCo, they are behind a password wall.

[10] See prior endnote.

[11] Once again, I have little confidence in the likelihood that this URL will persist.

[12] Linguistics, which I consider our most interdisciplinary discipline, can usually be counted only as a Humanities course or Social Studies course, even though Linguistics is also arguably a science.

[14] I expect that you can predict the contents of this endnote.

Version 1.0 of 2020-05-07.