Learning on Campus

The Learning Experience

When students return to campus, their courses may be offered in a number of different modalities: face to face, hybrid, or entirely online. We have done a thorough review of our classroom spaces, and because we will need to maintain health and safety standards, we have made adjustments—both to class sizes and to the layout of classrooms. We will use every space on campus to offer our curriculum, but we will also get creative about how to give all students some face to face and some online access. This overview of the course delivery modalities at Saint Mary’s notes some of their key features and factors. 

Mandatory COVID Testing

All students attending in-person classes, including those living off campus, must be tested for COVID-19 prior to coming to Saint Mary’s for the fall 2020 semester. Because of the surge in COVID testing in several parts of the country, testing labs are reporting longer than expected wait times for results. Therefore, we have made some modifications to the testing requirement to assist you in obtaining the tests and results. 

The physician's order and instruction letter you received in an email from President Conboy on July 9, indicates that you are to obtain a nasal  PCR test. While this is the best test for the COVID-19 virus and what we prefer, there are now shortages of this test in parts of the country. We are willing to accept PCR tests collected by other routes (oropharyngeal or saliva). We also will accept the results from a rapid antigen test. However, antibody tests will not be accepted.

In addition, we have heard from a number of families there is concern they may not get test results in a timely manner. Therefore, all students may be tested 14 days in advance of their scheduled move-in date, rather than 10–12 days as we advised earlier. If you are having trouble finding a test, please contact Cyndie Horton-Cavanaugh at chorton@saintmarys.edu.

To access more detailed, updated instructions for testing and the physician's order, click the button below. Because there will be many questions relating to this step, including where to obtain testing, billing information, etc., please review our list of frequently asked questions for detailed information.

Online Training Module

Prior to coming to campus, all students must complete the COVID-19 Student Training module. This brief training module will guide you on the ways in which you can help maintain a safe environment at Saint Mary’s College. 

The COVID-19 Student Training consists of two steps, first a presentation module for review, then a brief questionnaire. Once you have reviewed the presentation fully, you will find a link to a series of questions to ensure you understand the information presented. When you successfully complete the questionnaire, a confirmation email will be sent to your Saint Mary’s College email address. Please retain this confirmation for your records. 

Completion of the COVID-19 Student Training is required before you are allowed to move into your residence hall. If you are living off-campus, it must be completed before attending your first class, as all members of the Saint Mary’s community have a shared responsibility in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting each other.

Covid-19 Student Training Module

Classroom Instruction

Many of the classes will be face to face as usual. Some will be a mix of online and face-to-face — with online being a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning. The synchronous online parts will be conducted through a live meeting program such as Collaborate that allows professors and students to see and hear each other and, most importantly, to interact in real time all together or in breakout rooms for group work. The asynchronous parts will include materials that are posted online for you to work through at your own pace. This type of hybrid learning should not be new to those of you who have participated in hybrid courses on campus in the past. A few classes will be fully online, but you will still engage with the instructor as a group, in real-time, at least once a week. 

Faculty are committed to quality, discussion-based teaching. They have designed their courses with the blend best suited to safely achieve that goal. Also, to the extent possible, we will run a paperless campus to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For students who may become ill, your professors will work with you to develop an individualized plan to allow you to continue being part of the class in as seamless a way as possible taking into account your physical condition, the nature of the upcoming work in the class and your individual learning style.

Classroom Health Precautions

Learning spaces will be deep cleaned nightly to sanitize and prepare them for the start of the day. All teaching will be conducted with a primary consideration of infection control and distancing at the forefront. Faculty and students are expected to follow the general guidelines for infection control and avoid situations where social distancing and appropriate face covering are not maintained.

Masks are required for in-person teaching and learning, unless it is impossible because of specific requirements of the educational environment. All exceptions to the mask rules will need to be reviewed and approved. Saint Mary’s will continue reviewing the availability of other infection control solutions to meet the varied needs of the teaching environment.

For most classes, you will come to class with your laptop. If you do not have one, please email studentaffairs@saintmary.edu to let us know, and we will arrange for you to get a loaner for the semester.

Office Hours, Academic Advising, and Other Student Interactions

Saint Mary’s has a long tradition of excellence in education and commitment to its students. Academic advising as well as meeting a professor during office hours are important markers of a student’s time on campus. In order to make these routine student interactions accessible and safe, we have established the following guidelines:

  • For the time being, most faculty office hours will be held virtually. Faculty will advise each class on how they will conduct their meetings.
  • If an individual’s private office has sufficient square footage to maintain 30 square feet per inhabitant, it is appropriate to have face-to-face meetings with students in that space. Both participants shall use face coverings for the duration of the meeting.
  • In private offices, faculty members will ensure social distancing and infection control opportunities such as arranging seating to assure appropriate social spacing. When possible, seating will not be directly face to face.
  • A simple way to visualize if there is enough space for appropriate physical distance in an office would be for the person sitting at their desk to extend their arms to the person in the client chair, who also extends their arms toward the person at the desk. When both extend their arms to the other, if there is a foot or more between their fingertips, there is sufficient space in the office for two people.

Academic Services

Saint Mary's students will continue to have access to a tremendous level of academic support, including:

  •  Disability Resource Office counselors will provide both in-person and virtual individual meetings. Proctored testing will be available in a larger space that will ensure adequate physical distancing.
  • The Career Crossings Office will continue to provide a full level of one-on-one services to assist students with choosing majors, exploring and discerning career paths, searching for internships and jobs, and preparing for graduate and professional school applications.
  • The Success Program will continue working with students, providing individual academic coaching and study tables.
  • The Cushwa-Leighton Library will be open with several safety protocols in place, including arranging study spaces to encourage social distancing. The circulation desk will be staffed, and library users will be able to check out books while reference consultations will be virtual. The Library will offer curbside pick-up for library users who wish to retrieve material without coming into the library.

Staying Healthy at the Library

The Pass/Fail Option

We will provide flexibility regarding the deadline to declare a pass/fail grade. Normally, we would only allow a course to be counted as pass/fail if the student declared the desire for such in the first 10 days of the semester. However, we are extending the opportunity to declare a course for pass/fail grading up until November 12, 2020, the last day of classes.

What is Pass/Fail grading? If you earn a passing grade (i.e., A-D) it will be recorded on your transcript as a pass and not factor into your GPA. If you earn a failing grade, it will be recorded as an F on your transcript and will be included in the calculation of your GPA. Students are allowed only a maximum of two courses pass/fail per semester which cannot be taken for Sophia, major or minor courses; and only a total maximum of six such courses can count toward your degree. Courses taken as pass/fail in Spring 2020 semester do not count towards this maximum. Remember also that a course taken pass/fail does not apply to the 12 graded hours required for the calculation of honors. If you have any questions about this policy please contact the advising office at advising@saintmarys.edu.

Studying in Common Spaces 

The occupancy of lounges and other common areas in all Saint Mary’s College buildings will be limited to the number of occupants that allows for 30 square feet per occupant. All occupants of lounges and other common areas are required to wear face coverings.

Mask Up

We ask that all members of the community take responsibility for their basic health status and to make every effort to conform to safety requirements. With that, faculty members will enforce the use of masks by students and physical distancing in their classrooms.