Pepperdine School of Public Policy Maximum Flexibility Strategy - Spring 2021
As of November 6,2020—As many of you may know, Pepperdine University continues to await specific guidance from the State of California and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health regarding our ability to hold classes on the Malibu campus in the spring semester. At this time, Los Angeles County is classified in the "widespread" or "purple tier" according to the State of California Blueprint for a Safer Economy. Consequently, we are precluded or substantially limited in our options to hold in-person classes and student gatherings on campus, and the county has offered no clear understanding of when that may change.
We appreciate the resilience and perseverance of our students, faculty, and staff during a time of uncertainty and change in teaching modalities this fall term. As we look to the spring, we have considered student input about building community and engagement; faculty feedback; and University, state, and county health and safety guidance and will be putting a schedule together with "maximum flexibility" consisting of online courses, as well as hybrid courses if and where permitted.
The spring semester will focus on the safety of our students according to Pepperdine's Restoration Plan while offering "choice" as you decide what is best for you and your family. In preparation for the possibility of returning to in-person classes in Malibu, SPP has modified the capacity of each of our classrooms to accommodate the six-foot social distancing mandate, will continue to follow the University's face coverings and social distancing and quarantine and isolation policies and procedures, have already equipped select spaces with plexiglass barriers, and have modified all classrooms to have secure recording, streaming, and camera mic systems installed to enable a hybrid course experience.
Spring 2021 Academic Calendar
Because Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive "purple tier," SPP has adjusted the academic calendar to start two weeks later than originally planned. Should conditions improve in the county over the next two and a half months, a later spring semester start date gives Pepperdine time to respond to any updated guidance from the county, possibly allowing the flexibility of in-person instruction. The Spring 2021 Academic Calendar will begin on January 19, with finals on April 26-29, and graduation scheduled for April 30, 2021.
Maximum Flexibility Strategy
SPP remains committed to having as much time on-ground (in-person) coursework with our students as possible. With the constraints created by COVID-19, we may have to launch online, but we will open on-campus sessions if future conditions around the pandemic permit us to do so. The "Maximum Flexibility Strategy" we are developing for the spring semester allows students to access every class in the spring online, but also choose to be in person for three to five sessions if in-person classes are able to resume. Some courses will be offered in an online-only format. The two class "modalities" are as follows:
- Hybrid/In-Person: These classes will be taught synchronously with new video technology—offering those that wish to participate online an option to "join" the class simultaneously (at the same time). Classes will most likely start with the online synchronous model; our plan is to have some classes in-person if campus restrictions are lifted.
- Online: These classes (including at least one elective in each specialization) will be fully online only using the Zoom platform and Pepperdine's learning management system, Courses.
All courses offered hybrid/in-person and online will be recorded, allowing students who are facing exceptional situations to access the information asynchronously as needed and for all students to review and reference the content to enhance learning. A limited number of courses may, by design, have some asynchronous content.
The course schedule is being built now, and we plan to roll out registration information before the end of November. As we hire faculty and they prepare their syllabi, we will be asking them to provide feedback about the ability for the course to be flexible with group projects and class participation for international students unable to participate in all synchronous sessions.
SPP remains committed to providing an in-person experience for students this spring, including the exploration of some in-person classes in Orange and Ventura Counties, which are currently at lower county risk levels and have less restrictive business operations. Building community and having the person-to-person experience that defines our program remains our priority.
As a reminder, this Maximum Flexibility Strategy is our "plan" at this time, and final decisions about offering any in-person classes have not yet been made. We are still subject to state, county, and University direction, and should these plans change due to the current state of the pandemic, those decisions will be communicated quickly to students.
While L.A. County Public Health guidance about our ability to make our learning and living spaces available to students and at what capacity is still pending, the University will continue to offer emergency housing options in socially distanced on-campus housing.
We know that international students face challenges related to scheduling consul visits, securing visas, and requirements to quarantine upon arrival, among others. In addition, Optional Practical Training (OPT) can be limited to students who have studied outside of the United States for a period of time. Students are advised to be in touch with the Office of International Student Services for resources and forms.
We look forward to welcoming students back to campus and, for many, meeting you in-person for the first time. There will be many questions about our plan and the impact on other program elements like financial aid, Professional Development sessions, daily wellness checks, library access, and more. The school keeps the SPP COVID-19 FAQ updated, which comprises most students' questions, and our faculty and staff stand ready to answer questions and support you as you make decisions for next term.