Local colleges and universities are gearing up for a 2020-21 academic year that will be unlike any other — except, perhaps, the one rocked by the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago. And different institutions are each implementing reopening models that officials say are unique to their particular circumstances. 

At Triton College in River Grove, which kicks off fall classes on Aug. 24, students will take five types of courses that range from full online learning to a mixture of online and in-person instruction, a college spokesperson said. 

Triton, which serves Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield north of Southview Avenue, is requiring all students to have access to Wi-Fi, a webcam and a computer. The college also has implemented a free mobile app called CampusClear that allows students and employees who are on campus to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms. 

Last month, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers — which collectively represent 238,000 employees in public and private schools and colleges in the state — issued a joint statement insisting that colleges go full remote unless adequate safety measures to protect students and instructors are in place.

“We are working to ensure that any district providing in-person instruction in Illinois is prepared and able to abide by the safety measures outlined by the state, the federal government, and medical professionals,” it stated. “If those measures are not met, we will do everything we can to protect our students and those who care for them — teachers and professors, bus drivers, classroom aides, secretaries, building janitors and everyone in between.”

The Illinois Education Association did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment. At Triton, full-time instructors are represented by the Triton College Faculty Association while the Triton College Adjunct Faculty Association represents adjunct instructors. 

Leslie Wester, the faculty association’s president, declined to comment specifically on how her union felt about Triton College’s reopening plans. 

She did point out that the union is “working with the administration during this fluid situation” to figure out the best way forward. Wester added that the union currently has no plans to strike.

Bill Justiz, who heads up the adjunct faculty union, did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

COD offers virtual, online and hybrid classes

College of DuPage, which serves the southern half of Brookfield, has outlined three different approaches to learning that will be available to students for the 2020 fall semester.

Any classes meeting in person and on campus will use larger rooms in order to maintain physical distancing requirements, but there will be other options available to students, including two that feature completely remote learning.

One type of class offered this fall, called Virtual Class Meetings will meet, according to the school’s website, “completely online in real time at specified days and times using video chat software. All assignments are submitted online. This format is designed to allow students regular face-to-face contact in a virtual format.”

The school’s Online option provides for less interpersonal interaction between students and teachers. The courses, according to the website, “are taught completely online following instructor timelines and learning outcomes. Students interact mostly through discussion boards and written messages and all assignments are submitted online.”

Those wishing to attend classes in person can do so through the school’s Hybrid option. While those classes meet mostly online, they include in-person meetings for labs, studios clinical work.

“Face-to-face meeting days and times for each section will vary depending on the course and learning needs,” the school’s website states.

College of DuPage could transition Hybrid courses to Virtual Class Meetings if health and safety guidelines require such a move in the future.

Like Triton College, students attending classes at College of DuPage are going to need access to Wi-Fi as well as a computer and a web camera.