What to Expect of the Online Experience This Fall

The fall semester will be completely online. Here's what you should know about that experience. 

July 7, 2020

There’s no question about it: This semester will be different. Entering students will have an experience unlike any class before them. And continuing students will be welcomed back to a Berklee that has changed even since the spring. But both groups will be doing what college students have always done—pushing forward, honing their skills, and preparing for the rest of their lives. 

The fall semester will be completely online. To prepare for this, faculty and staff have been spending the summer refining the online experience to ensure that students have an enriching semester. Here’s what students can expect of that experience. 

It will be streamlined.

In the spring, when pandemic forced the college to abruptly switch to online instruction, faculty and students scrambled to patch together systems that worked. More than 21 different technologies were employed. And faculty had to retool their classes without the ability to plan for their new formats. Not this fall. 

“There’s a lot of curriculum design that goes into thinking about how you would deliver a course experience remotely versus on campus, and so I think the summer months have been about that, about really making sure that the learning outcomes are compelling and meaningful in this context. The other piece is that we’re really trying to standardize around the way the experience works,” said Carin Nuernberg, Berklee’s vice president of academic strategy.

This fall, courses will be mostly delivered through a few integrated environments. The college is doubling down on the use of Zoom, but will also use Moodle and BOCCE, the custom-made Berklee Online platform. Depending on the course, other technologies could be used as well.

There will be special programs for entering students.  

Berklee is making an extra effort to welcome entering students and help them acclimate to college life. This program will include orientation as well as information they’ll need to get settled, build support networks, engage with other students, participate in student activities, and take part in academic advising and career-center mentoring. 

The course catalog will be expansive. 

Berklee will offer a full complement of virtual courses so that all students have what they need to advance in their academic programs. In April, the college hosted 2,888 course sections
, including 925 unique classes, delivered remotely. On top of that, 3,344 private lessons
 were conducted online. The college expects to offer a similar number of virtual courses in the fall. 

Online courses will be different from Berklee Online.

The breadth of courses available to remote students enrolled in Berklee will be far more extensive than that offered through Berklee Online, which has about 220 courses. 

“[It] is essentially an extension of being on campus. Meaning, the course work that you do is representative of what you’d be doing if you were on campus,” Nuernberg said. In contrast, she points out, Berklee Online has its own curriculum, a portion of which can count towards program requirements for the Bachelor of Music program. She encourages students who are considering taking classes through Berklee Online to look into how these credits apply toward their Berklee degree. 

“There’s no credit-transfer limit because it’s institutional credit, but you will have real limits based on the requirements of your program,” Nuernberg says. 

Another essential difference is that, unlike regular classes offered online, Berklee Online courses are not live, save for a weekly hourlong meeting. “The model is essentially flipped, where the bulk of the instruction is happening through asynchronous means, meaning we fully design lessons to be done independently over the course of the week,” Nuernberg said.  

There will be a focus on live instruction.

Remote students will largely be taught in real time, with scheduled classes and live engagement with professors and classmates. Some assignments and supplemental instruction will be delivered asynchronously. The college is currently working on identifying class meeting times that would work for most students, and is considering adding course sections that would be held at times convenient for students in Asia and Australia. 

International students won’t have to take a break. 

Students who live outside the United States and who might have trouble traveling to Boston will be able to continue their education from home. (Note: The rules regarding student visas are changing rapidly. Students should direct their questions about visas to Berklee’s International Student Services.)

You can stay safe. 

Students who have health considerations and prefer not to come to campus will still be able to interact meaningfully with their peers and with faculty. 

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