Volume 37, Issue 2
On August 17, 2020, Tiffin University’s beautiful campus sprung to life with the energy of the new academic year. Over 1,000 students returned to campus and brought back a sense of normalcy, as much as possible, and made TU home once again.
It was clear that students would engage in a different college experience for the 2020 – 21 academic year. Classes were held in a hybrid modality; the dining hall was a grab-and-go design; athletes practiced in small groups; and most fall sport competitions were pushed to the spring semester.
For most students, like Jacob Zinn, it did not matter what the school year would be like – they just wanted to be back on campus.“When the coronavirus originally sent us home in the spring of 2020, I was concerned that we would not be able to come back to Tiffin in the fall,” said Jacob. “When I found out that we were coming back, I was excited and relieved.”
TU formed a Dragon Taskforce to create reopening guidelines in preparation for the 2020 – 2021 academic year. The plan included recommendations from the CDC, Ohio State Health Department and the Seneca County Health Department. Some measures put in place included sanitation procedures, physical distancing and universal mask wearing.
There were many factors why TU was successful in keeping campus open, and the TU mobile app was central to the University’s plan.
“I used TU’s app a lot last year.” Jacob compares the app to Facebook for Tiffin University. “There’s a lot you can do on the app. There are pages for organizations, lost and found, buying and selling, etc. There are also a lot of resources from the school, such as career services, academic support and student activities. I actually got my job on campus through the app. But last year specifically, I used the TU app for health screenings and contact tracing.”
The daily health screening was a way Tiffin University employees and students could lower the chance of COVID-19 transmission on campus. Students, faculty and staff had to complete the daily health assessment before arriving to work or class. The user- friendly questionnaire asks about symptoms, traveling to advisory states, being in close contact with someone who has COVID or if they have been prompted to quarantine. If they successfully pass the self-assessment, they receive a green clearance and can safely proceed to campus. Those who do not pass the self-assessment are provided guidance on what to do next.
One of the main challenges was how to keep everyone safe, primarily if someone tests positive or is exposed to COVID-19. An innovative way to stay ahead of the curve is the contact-tracing feature on the TU mobile app.
“There are QR codes placed around campus to help with contact tracing. I use the app’s camera to scan the code before entering a building, classroom or office.”
The app collects information from the QR codes and will alert them of potential exposure, along with the next steps.
Despite the pandemic, students’ desire to be on campus and finish their college career in-person outweighed the risks. Their drive to remain on campus and follow protocols paid off. Everyone learned to do things differently and made the new normal possible. By working together as a community, Tiffin University successfully remained open for the 2020-21 year.
“I believe that Tiffin University handled the coronavirus better than other colleges,” said Jacob. “I feel safe on campus. The Dragon Plan was and continues to be successful. We made it to the end of the year without being shut down and sent home. I enjoy being at college, and I love being at Tiffin University.”