Learning Curves: A clear commitment to in-person classes and a real-world lesson in statistics

Provost stresses commitment to in-person fall classes

In a Q&A published yesterday, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Larissa Smith makes it clear just how committed Longwood is to safely holding classes in person this fall:

Question: Longwood has said it’s committed to returning to in-person learning in the fall. Does that mean in classrooms on campus?

Answer: Yes, it does.

Dr. Smith goes on to say that Longwood’s smaller class sizes and room to spread out provide some advantages in safely holding classes in person come fall.

“…We both generally enjoy smaller class sizes, and we have space on campus to spread out. Longwood has always had very few large lecture courses,” she said. “Meanwhile, we have an additional 42,000 square feet of academic space coming online in the fall with a new building, giving us additional classroom space and flexibility.”

Acknowledging that Covid-19 will likely still be around this fall, she added that the university is also considering course-delivery options that could accommodate at-risk faculty and students.

And what if classes have to go fully online again?

“We plan to operate safely in the fall under the assumption that Covid-19 hasn’t been eradicated. We know that a fully online semester is not why undergraduate students choose Longwood,” Smith said. “We take extraordinary pride in the residential experience we offer students, so moving to a fully online semester would be a last resort. However, we do expect that we will rely more on our classroom technology and learning software to promote safe practices and flexibility.”

You can read the full Q&A with Provost Smith here.

statistics class teaches students real-world lessons

As the Covid-19 pandemic was hitting the U.S. in March, Dr. Leigh Lunsford saw a unique opportunity for her MATH 301 Applied Statistics class to test their skills in a real-world situation.

The use of statistical methods is a key element in epidemiology. With numbers related to the spreading virus—and the response to it—readily available, Lunsford, professor of mathematics at Longwood, decided to assign her students a project based on the pandemic.

Dr. Leigh Lunsford, professor of mathematics, assigned students in her statistics class a project working with data from the pandemic.

The goal of the project was to determine if Virginia was flattening its logistic curve of Covid-19 cases—in other words, was there a daily decrease in the growth rate of the total number of cases.

The class used data from the New York Times, which was tracking Covid-19 cases by state, covering the time period March 11 through April 6.

“It was cool to be able to use data from a real-world event for this report,” said one student in the class. “It made me more informed about the situation happening in our state right now. I also found it interesting to learn how statistics are playing such a major role in this pandemic and being used to make big decisions.”

You can read the full story here.

—Sabrina Brown