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Bentley Magazine

Students with mask

Campus Opens for Fall

‘Back together as a Falcon family once again’

Kristen Walsh

Safety, flexibility and innovation are top of mind as Bentley prepares to open for the fall trimester. Classes begin on August 31. 

“I can’t wait to see students walking on campus again,” says J. Andrew Shepardson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “The campus will definitely look different from in the past, but the changes are meant to keep students, faculty and staff safe and healthy. We’re looking forward to welcoming our students back to campus. It will be great to be back together as a Falcon family.” 

Face coverings, hand-sanitizing stations and signs that promote practices such as physical distancing are ubiquitous on campus. The resident student population will be reduced, with only single and double bedrooms to meet guidelines set by Massachusetts and the Centers for Disease Control. Most suites and apartments will allow regular occupancy; roommates in each are considered a family unit. The university will test students for COVID-19 when they arrive on campus and regularly thereafter. There will be testing requirements for faculty and staff as well.

Campus eateries such as the 921 will serve food in disposable containers for takeout. In addition, students can use the Grubhub app to pre-order meals for pick up from most campus dining spots. 

Back to Bentley: The Plan for a Safe and Healthy Return to Campus

After Thanksgiving break, to avoid the risk of students returning to campus with COVID-19, all courses will go online and residence halls will stay closed through the end of the trimester. Families will receive a 20% discount on housing and meal fees. 

Decision-making of all kinds has been difficult during the pandemic. Bentley’s move to a trimester schedule, beginning this fall, is meant to help students and families plan during uncertain times. (Two trimesters per year are required to make timely progress toward graduation.) The schedule offers flexibility and an opportunity for students to graduate early or pursue internships in the fall, spring or summer.

Shift to Trimesters Gives Students More Flexibility

Where the classroom and curriculum are concerned, Bentley was ahead of changes that COVID-19 brought into sharper focus. The university’s strategic plan, developed in 2019, had focused attention on serving nontraditional students in a shifting higher education market. For example, the McCallum Graduate School offers new graduate certificates in data analytics and innovative management. Both are fully online and can take less than a year to complete. In Executive Education, streamlined offerings include the Mini-MBA and leadership development programs focused on diversity and inclusion; all take place virtually in fall 2020.

New technology in classrooms will enable hybrid learning

The Badavas Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning is another key initiative launched through Bentley’s strategic plan. Under its executive director, Suzanne Dove, the center explores new educational experiences and delivery methods, promotes faculty research and development, and examines the educational process as a whole. In early March, the center jumped in to help make the shift to online-only courses.

“The standard ‘rules of engagement’ in the classroom changed abruptly,” says Dove. “Faculty had to re-examine their expectations of students: Which course goals are most critical? Which assignments best enable students to demonstrate their learning? Are there alternative assignments that students might choose among?”

She and her team collaborated with the Bentley Learning and Teaching Council to prepare faculty as the pandemic took hold in Massachusetts. Online teaching, using Zoom technology, began on March 23.

“Just like in a live class, it’s all about connecting with and engaging your students in the learning process. You just have to do that differently when some are online,” explains Tracy Noga, the Wilder Teaching Professor and chair of the Accounting Department. She also co-leads a task force for Teaching & Learning Resilience and Digital Innovation. “It boils down to purposefully thinking about the online students, since the default would be to pay attention to only those students right in front of you.”

Hybrid technology at Bentley University
          An interactive poll collected students’ responses and led to a class discussion.

Toward that end, the university is pursuing a hybrid model of education, with courses taught online and in person. Technology to support in-class and remote students was already up and running in about 20% of Bentley classrooms. For the rest, upgrades are underway, to include interactive whiteboards, built-in and wireless microphones, video cameras and large-screen monitors. Class sessions will include a dedicated technology assistant to keep instruction running without a glitch.

The technology enables techniques such as interactive polling, which poses a question that online and in-person students answer at the same time. In one course, for example, Accounting Department lecturer Joy Gray, PhD ’16 asked for students’ immediate reaction to the phrase “IT auditing.”

Their answers formed a word cloud, which showed “students’ preconceived notions of internal auditing and became a springboard for discussion,” explains Noga. “It’s a great way to engage students and quickly assess their grasp of course material.”


It’s all about connecting with and engaging your students in the learning process. You just have to do that differently when some are online.
Tracy Noga
Chair of the Accounting Department

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