Fall Semester Features Hybrid Learning

Professor Aditya Bamzai speaks with students in Spies Garden in September. Photo by Julia Davis

T

he Law School shifted to a hybrid learning environment this fall, offering a mix of in-person and online courses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Students who wanted to take a class, or all their classes, online were able to do so.

Offering these options required reworking the usual curriculum and school operations.

“This pandemic poses unprecedented challenges in the history of the Law School, and we are working hard to meet the moment,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “Throughout the summer, our faculty and staff showed incredible creativity and flexibility as they adapted our operations in accordance with public health guidelines, prepared our facilities for a safe and healthy return to classes, and remodeled our curricular schedule to account for a hybrid learning environment.”

The University’s detailed public health plan for the return to Grounds included requiring returning students to be tested for COVID-19, and other protocols and practices for testing, monitoring and quarantining, including a daily symptom reporting app, HOOS Health Check, for students and employees. Face coverings are required within buildings, including the Law School, though teachers may remove masks to teach when plexiglass is present. (In late September UVA announced plans to temporarily require face coverings outside buildings.)

At the Law School, 70% of students are taking at least one class in person. The school is offering 175 courses, in line with past semesters.

First-year students, who are divided into small sections of 35-38 students to build camaraderie with classmates, have two classes with their small section this fall instead of just one.

“There’s no doubt this year will feel different, but we are focused on the health and safety of our students, the UVA Law community and the greater community beyond these halls,” Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Sarah Davies ’91 said. “We are counting on students to work together and work with us to ensure the best learning environment possible under the circumstances.”

For courses that take place in person, students sit at least 6 feet apart, sometimes in event spaces such as Caplin Auditorium, Caplin Pavilion and the Purcell Reading Room, as well as the school’s existing larger classrooms. Large tents with lighting have been erected outdoors in Spies Garden to give students and others more room to engage in activities at a safe social distance.

“We are fortunate to have these large spaces, and a temperate climate, to allow us to continue to gather in classes and as a community,” Vice Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06 said. “We [also outfitted] classes with new equipment to facilitate online instruction, including plexiglass at podiums, web cameras and multiple monitors.”

The library installed plexiglass to allow two students to study safely at a desk. Approximately 200 hand sanitizer and wipe dispenser stations have been placed throughout the school, toilets were equipped with lids that close, and touchless faucets were installed.

“It takes substantial resources to make all of these changes in preparation for conducting classes in a hybrid format and ensuring a safe return for the community,” said Senior Associate Dean for Administration Stephen Parr. “It has also required a monumental effort by staff, working nonstop throughout the summer, to prepare to reopen the school.”

Though a portion of classes are meeting at the Law School, many employees are working remotely at least some of the time. Meetings, events and counseling sessions are taking place online, and the facility is closed to visitors.  

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