Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College — with campuses in Superior, Ashland, New Richmond and Rice Lake — plans to offer a limited amount of in-person instruction for the fall semester with only hands-on work to be taught in person.
"It's a pretty conservative plan, said Jena Vogtman, Superior campus administrator and associate vice president of marketing and communications. "We figure that way we won't have to backtrack if and when we have a second wave. Instructors will be able to rely on that. Our students will be able to rely on that schedule and it should make it easier for everybody to get through that schedule."
Anything that doesn't require hands-on learning will be taught using online delivery, including some portions of those hands-on classes. All general education courses will be offered online or using a “synchronous virtual” delivery method, which means classes will meet at regularly scheduled times using web-based videoconferencing.
Currently, WITC is limiting its class sizes to about 10 students per lab, but that number depends on the program, Vogtman said. The college also had to reduce its capacities slightly for some programs in order to be able to maintain physical distancing in the classroom. The cosmetology program, for example, dropped from a capacity of 16 students to 12.
Programs that have some hands-on components such as nursing, public safety and agriculture have been modified to include a combination of in-person and virtual learning. Programs that are more compatible with virtual learning, such as business programs and gerontology, will be offered using a "your choice" delivery, meaning students can join the class at the live meeting time — online or in person — or follow up with the recorded version of the class later.
"In practice most students end up using the virtual options most anyways," Vogtman said.
Fall classes will begin as scheduled Aug. 24. Instructors and students will have the ability to opt out of taking and teaching in-person classes if they're concerned about face-to-face contact. Students will have access to all services virtually if that is their preference.
"Those classes and programs where we need the hand on competencies and where students expect to be doing hands-on work, like welding and machine tool, those are the types of classes that we are going to be able to offer in an in-person format and we have plans to do so as safely as possible to minimize risk," Vogtman said.
The specific safety requirements for in-person classes will depend on guidelines from the local health department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that are in place at the start of the fall term. Closer to the start of the fall term, the college plans to make a decision regarding whether or not face masks or coverings will be required.
Currently, faculty and staff are required to wear masks on campus and up until Tuesday a medical assistant class at WITC was still finishing up the spring term and Vogtman said those students were required to wear masks.
"We're still kind of deciding what that will look like for fall," Vogtman said.
Preliminary results of survey WITC conducted on students enrolled at the college in the spring show that about 10% of students are waiting to decide on fall enrollment due to a variety of life factors, such as pending confirmation on what the child care situation will look like. About 75% of respondents indicated that they plan to return this fall.
Across all four campuses, WITC is down about 6% in applications for the fall term. Compared to last year's numbers, the college is almost even in first-year undergraduate student enrollments.