All summer classes will be moved online at the University of Rhode Island, abiding with social distancing guidelines. Photo courtesy of the University of Rhode Island

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Rhode Island has moved all summer classes to an online format. 

In a community-wide email sent on April 6, the University announced that the summer sessions will be held in two different formats: asynchronous, in which the course is online only with no specific in-class meeting times, and asynchronous/synchronous, a mixed format with virtual in class sessions and online, independent work. 

According to John Olerio, assistant director of summer sessions and winter J-term, URI has approximately 450-500 summer sessions each year. Originally, only about 150 summer sessions were scheduled to meet this summer on a URI campus; meaning there were only about 150 summer sessions that needed to be readjusted into an online format. 

“Fortunately, one of the things my office has been working really hard with, in collaboration with all the academic departments, over the last few years as I’ve taken over is moving more of our summer courses online,” Olerio said. “Because of that, summer sessions [were] a little bit better positioned to make this change.” 

While current projections show cases of COVID-19 in Rhode Island declining as the summer months begin, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Dean Libutti believes that deciding to put all summer sessions online sooner rather than later was the best decision for the entire University. 

“The biggest gift we could give to anyone right now is the gift of time,” Libutti said. “For faculty it’s planning and preparing your class; for students it’s right now you’re in registration mode for the fall and understanding what summer [sessions] are happening. Our faculty senate, the provost’s office and our summer office collaborated together and really realized the fact that it was in the best interest of all to make the decision early so people could plan.” 

According to Libutti, the enrollment numbers for summer sessions saw a “huge spike” after the University announced all courses would be online. The last day for students to enroll in summer classes through e-Campus is May 22 for most sessions and courses. 

The University will also move the Talent Development (TD) summer success program online as well. TD students will continue to take the same classes, some of which cover aspects of college study skills such as time management, reading, note-taking and, now, how to learn in an online environment. 

TD has been working with these students to plan their course selections and adapt the entire program to the online format, which includes adapting the TD resident assistant position that students would have in the on-campus housing to a TD ambassador position. According to TD’s Associate Director of Academic Programming and Assessment Kristina Moyet, the ambassadors will still be connected with students to ensure that scholars are still making meaningful relationships and addressing any student needs. The approximately 10 ambassadors will be closely connected to the TD advisors, Moyet said. 

The University will also change the way incoming students experience orientation. According to Libutti, new students will first be invited to an online platform that introduces them to the University’s services. In June, students will begin to meet with their advisors virtually one-on-one, register for fall classes, meet new students and learn about clubs and organizations they can join. 

A few days before the semester begins in September, the University will be launching a new phase of orientation. According to Libutti, the University will host programs and activities for students to get involved during these set days.

“The URI community did an amazing job pivoting online,” Libutti said. “Right now, we’re excited to have our community back. We know that if any adjustments need to be made they will be made in collaboration with our faculty, administration and, at times, our students.”
Jayne Richmond, dean of University College for Academic Success, has had a large role in the development of orientation during this time period. 

According to Richmond, the University purchased a software that will allow them to build an interactive orientation setting this summer during the June online sessions. 

“As we move forward [with orientation], next year, the year after, we will probably continue to use [the software] as a supplement to what we do on campus, because what we do on campus is really important, so we don’t want to give that up, but of course this year there will be no face-to-face,” Richmond said. 

The University will begin to open fall registration for new students around May 15 and will likely leave it open into July, making it different from the past where registration has taken place only in June. 

“It’s a little more spread out, but our advisors are committed throughout the summer and are welcome to be that contact for them,” Richmond said. 

Students can find more information on summer sessions, Talent Development programming and orientation details on the University’s website.