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Howard Community College announces continuation of mostly virtual learning, cancels in-person 2020 graduation

Howard Community College has announced it will not return to normal operations for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The community college in Columbia will maintain its mostly virtual “blended” learning model, which includes three types of classes that vary in the type of instruction, for the winter and spring semesters.

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“In light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Howard Community College’s decision about the winter and spring terms ensures the continued focus on the health, safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff,” Howard Community College President Kate Hetherington said in a news release. “The college community continues to serve our students during these challenging times and remain dedicated to the mission of providing pathways to success.”

The three forms of classes — hybrid, scheduled remote and flexible online — depend on the type of course. Hybrid classes are held both on campus and online for labs and other types of instruction that require hands-on learning. Scheduled remote classes will be conducted online with specific times of instruction using the Zoom video conferencing app. Flexible online classes will allow students to learn and complete assignments on their own time while utilizing Zoom and other platforms for recorded lectures.

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Howard Community College spokesperson Elizabeth Homan said that while the majority of classes are virtual, more hybrid courses will be offered in the winter and spring. The winter semester begins Jan. 4; the spring term begins Jan. 30 and ends May 21.

“We recognize students wanted additional opportunities to come to campus, so we’re expanding the amount of hybrid classes for the winter and spring,” Homan said. “As more information becomes available, we will always examine and reexamine our decision. In this environment since March, we’ve all had to be flexible and fluid as things change. For now, maintaining this blended learning environment was the best decision.”

Homan said the college will look at how to administer classes next summer and for the 2021-22 academic year during the spring semester.

“It will follow what we did for this fall, to give us enough time to finalize our classes and get information out to everyone,” Homan said.

Courses may be viewed on the community college’s website starting Oct. 20. Registration opens Nov. 10.

In addition to continuing its blended learning model, Howard Community College has also canceled its twice-postponed in-person commencement ceremony and is opting for a virtual format instead. The virtual ceremony will be held Dec. 16.

“What we realized is that we could not do an in-person commencement the way we would have wanted to do it,” Homan said. “There would have been a number restrictions on the number of people in the facility as well as on who could attend. This is such an important event, and we didn’t want to push it back further. We wanted to make sure they had an opportunity to celebrate this year.”

The original graduation was set for May 22 at the UMBC Event Center in Catonsville. That date was postponed by the college on March 20 in the early days of the pandemic. A month later, the community college announced Aug. 21 as its first reschedule date and Dec. 20 as a backup. Then, in July, it announced it was going to use the Dec. 20 backup date for the in-person ceremony. The 2021 commencement is set for May 27, and Homan said any possible alterations or changes to the program would be made in the spring.

The college will contact all graduates who would have participated in the May 2020 ceremony for more information about the virtual commencement. Kurt Schmoke, former Baltimore mayor and University of Baltimore president, will be the commencement speaker.

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