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Small Groups, 'Hybrid' Classes, Single Dorms: Our Lady Of The Lake’s Fall Plans

A pathway, building and banner on the Our Lady of the Lake University campus on San Antonio's West Side.
File Photo | Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio
A pathway, building and banner on the Our Lady of the Lake University campus on San Antonio's West Side.

Our Lady of the Lake University plans to reopen its campuses in San Antonio, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley this fall.

University professors and administrators are still working out the final details, but according to OLLU President Diane Melby changes to course schedules and dorm assignments are underway to enable social distancing when residence halls and classrooms reopen for the fall semester on August 17.

The course schedule will allow fewer students to come into contact with each other by offering a greater variety of courses online and in a “hybrid” format that combines in-person and online lessons.

“For example, we see at least some courses where the students meet in class, say just once a week, and then once a week they are online,” Melby said. “(That way) it will be possible to split up the class into two different groups and have them in class separately.”

Melby said the university has a class ratio of less than 15 students per professor, so she isn’t too concerned about classrooms being too small for students to stay 6 feet apart.

OLLU also plans to reopen older dorms that weren’t being used before the coronavirus outbreak.

“We still had rooms with three students in them… and that will of course be eliminated. We’ll have to decide whether the dorm rooms are large enough doubles, but the apartments are all single bedrooms with shared living space between four residents maximum, so we know we can use the apartments,” Melby said. “One of the residence halls that we’ll bring back online is all single rooms anyway.”

Melby said she believes the changes will keep students safe while helping them complete their degrees. She said she wants to reopen the campus as soon as possible because the students OLLU serves chose the university for its personal, family-like environment.

“I think that we’re going to see a lot of students, both young and college-age, that simply drift away. And we want to be very proactive in preventing that from happening,” Melby said.

OLLU is also adding new degree programs and certificates this fall, and including the cost of books and supplies in undergraduate tuition.

“Many of our students have financial challenges, and what we were finding is that a lot of students were trying to work their way through their academics without buying the textbook, and that wasn’t helping with their ability to keep up in classes,” Melby said.

Melby said the university is raising tuition 2.5%, but the goal isn’t increasing revenue. 

“We know that having access to these course materials is of utmost importance, so that’s really the driving factor,” Melby said. “It will be less revenue for the university but we think ultimately it’s for the good of our students.”

Our Lady of the Lake’s main campus is located on San Antonio’s west side and serves about 3,000 students.

The University of Texas at San Antonio and Texas A&M-San Antonio are also expected to reopen in the fall, with official plans expected at a later date.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille.

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