During the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, April 13, math professor, Rue Ann Olmstead, during the Public Comment section, explaining she does not yet feel safe to return to campus. Stemming from underlying medical issues, Olmstead has type 1 diabetes and feels there is no harm in maintaining the mask mandate on campus as well as continuing to allow professors to teach virtually.
Olmstead has taught at Butler for 20 years, and her hesitation about lifting Covid-19 regulations and hope to continue teaching via Zoom included her newfound love for virtual teaching. Referring to herself as “anti-technology” pre-Covid, in the past year Olmstead has begun a YouTube channel and has now over 400 video clips explaining lessons.
“I got over my fear of technology for the students,” Olmstead said. “I just knew my students needed it.”
Spring 2020 online enrollment was at 20,812 credit hours and, in the spring 2021 semester, enrollment stood at 28,265. According to Vice President of Student Services Jessica Ohman, Butler saw a 35.8% increase in online enrollment since the start of Covid. Having found great success in remote teaching, Olmstead also suggested the continued use of Zoom could help Butler retain students.
Remote learning offers a hybrid classroom experience where students can get a face-to-face teaching experience but, also, students are able to work at their own pace.
In a similar situation, Professor of English John Jenkinson has been teaching via Zoom for the past year.
“We should wait until we have achieved approximately 80% vaccination nationwide before we remove all mandates and protocols,” Jenkinson said.
Like Olmstead, Jenkinson has found great success teaching via Zoom and would continue to do so in the following months. Since the spring of 2020, professors have been allowed to request to teach virtually. This option will remain available to professors; however, not all requests are granted.
“I have heard from several students that Zoom allows them to attend, whereas they would not have been able to before,” Mindy Trenary, an associate professor of English, said.
She explains, in her experience, Zoom allows for greater class attendance and flexibility because her lessons are recorded, offering a good reference that was not available before. She said the vaccine has only been available to young adults for a short period of time and believes Butler should allow for more time for students to get vaccinated before removing the Covid protocols.
The decision was made that on Saturday, May 29, the campus mask mandate will be lifted, and social distancing will be lifted to three feet. Employees can still request to teach remote. The option of Zoom for students will be dependent on the professor for each course. Current COVID protocols will remain in place for the remainder of the semester. Further discussion of retaining the Zoom option for student enrollment at Butler will be considered at the next board meeting on Tuesday, May 11.