Friends and Colleagues,
Methodist Theological School in Ohio provides theological education and leadership in pursuit of a just, sustainable and generative world. In recent months, we have adapted to the realities of the global coronavirus pandemic by functioning in new and innovative ways while not wavering in our commitment to the values and ideals that shape our mission statement and our work. I am exceedingly grateful for all those who have pulled together to plan, nurture and support our collective thriving amidst considerable challenge.
Our pivot from residential, face-to-face education to online learning was swift, and we will continue to learn from our shared experience. It is time to look forward. Educational institutions across the country are announcing whether they will continue online or return to campus-based instruction despite little clarity regarding future impacts of the pandemic.
We at MTSO are discerning our way forward as well. We have only our current vantage point and, like everyone else, are dealing with uncertainty and limited perspective. That means plans could change as new risks or opportunities become apparent. We will continue to be guided by our institutional commitments and the best public health information available. Looking to the fall, we will serve our students and fulfill our mission in a manner that doesn’t compromise safety or pedagogical integrity but rather builds on our nimbleness and our belief in having diverse perspectives and voices together in community. As many institutions grapple with the binary choice between in-person and virtual learning, I want to share with you our plan for bringing the two together.
Beginning with the Fall Semester, we will offer MTSO Campus Extend: a learning experience gathered across physical and virtual space. Classes will use a “hyflex” educational model that blends into one class, in real time, campus-based students (meeting in person) with videoconferencing students (connecting remotely), augmented with additional asynchronous work throughout the week.
Community-life experiences such as chapel and special events will also take place within the Campus Extend format. Opportunities for us to interact informally and safely will be offered and encouraged.
We will provide technological and instructional support for all students and faculty. Campus spaces will be redesigned for lower-occupancy rooms, with reconfigured furniture and traffic patterns to facilitate social distancing. In some classes, professors will be physically present. In others, they will teach remotely.
Classes will begin as previously scheduled on Aug. 24. However, rather than a fall break in October, there will be a two-week break at Thanksgiving, with finals taking place Dec. 7-11 as originally planned. This means less travel on and off campus during the term and no interaction in physical space after Nov. 18.
We intend to share more about MTSO Campus Extend, including processes and policies for students’ selection of preferred modality, by June 15. Of course, adjustments may need to be made midstream in response to any emergent public health directives. The past few months have taught us that we can adapt and even thrive amidst significant disruption and hardship.
I am highly confident in the resolve and ingenuity of this community. The work we do here as students, faculty and staff is profoundly important and worthy of a creative approach. We will be in touch with further detail and are available for your comments and questions.
See you in the fall.