As UNC prepares to welcome back nearly 20,000 undergraduate students to campus in less than three weeks, some incoming students will be joining the University as part of a new remote program.
According to the Carolina Together website, Carolina Away is a program for incoming first-years and transfer students and was made to facilitate the transition to the University for students who are not comfortable with or are unable to be on campus in the fall.
The program allows around 1,000 students to complete approximately 15 credits online this fall and “participate in small-group experiences,” away from campus. Carolina Together states that, although most students take 15 credit hours, Carolina Away will provide individualized support for students whose situations warrant more or less classes. Once students return to campus, they will continue to participate in discussions and activities with classmates in their Carolina Away cohort.
According to Carolina Together, Carolina Away is not available for students who are transferring as juniors and are admitted in the following programs: biomedical and health sciences engineering, clinical laboratory science, dental hygiene, health policy and management, radiologic science or nursing.
Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, the senior associate dean of Social Sciences and Global Programs, and academic director for Carolina Away, said that the program was created in part to help new students become a part of the UNC community.
“We are, on the one hand, really helping them to make progress toward their academic goals as they start out, and on the other hand we really want them to belong to this community, and we want to develop a digital experience that will support their belonging to the community,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said.
According to the Carolina Together website, students can participate in Carolina Away by logging into ConnectCarolina and indicating their plans for next semester via the Fall Plans survey. The University has asked students to make them aware of their plans no later than July 31. The decision is not binding, as students can freely change their status until the end of the month.
Tuition and fees for Carolina Away students are the same for students not in the program. Carolina Together states that students in the program are still eligible for financial aid.
“Carolina Away participants will not have any university charges for housing or dining, though your financial aid award will still have an allowance in your cost of attendance budget for housing and meals while at home,” Carolina Together states.
An FAQ for Carolina Away on the Carolina Together website regarding students concerned about connectivity issues suggests mobile hotspots as “an alternative solution for remote learning,” and encourages students to review Information Technology Services’ guidance.
“The Carolina Away cost of attendance used for 2020-21 financial aid eligibility includes an allowance for technology,” the FAQ states. “Qualifying students may use these funds to upgrade their internet or purchase mobile hotspots.”
Carolina Away students can enroll in courses that are either completely online, or are “HyFlex,” which has both an online and in-person option, Colloredo-Mansfeld said.
“Carolina Away, as a program, is really there to help students make the most of our digital offerings, but it is not a separate set of offerings,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said.
The program requires students to take a one-credit COVID-19 Investigations and Learning Communities class that is unique to Carolina Away students, Colloredo-Mansfeld said. These investigation courses are targeted to different subject areas related to COVID-19 and will have guest speakers.
Jim Appiah said he is a first-year international student from Ghana participating in Carolina Away. He said he’s participating in the program because there are visa restrictions from his home country that prevented him from attending UNC in the fall. Appiah said he received guidance from UNC’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services when deciding to join the program.
He said that one of the challenges of the program so far was registering for classes because of the time difference in his home country.
“Because they didn’t personalize the enrollment ... it made it very difficult,” Appiah said. “Some of my classes will now be around 10 [p.m.].”
Husna Kider said she is an incoming first-year student from North Carolina and is participating in Carolina Away because she lives with her grandparents and young siblings and didn’t want to put them at greater risk of infection if she visited on the weekends.
Kider said she used the Carolina Together website for guidance on how to register. She said she received an initial email confirming her spot in Carolina Away, but as of July 22, has not received information on the program beyond that.
“It said you have to take a COVID investigations class and you can only sign up for remote or HyFlex classes, but other than that I didn’t really get a lot of information,” Kider said.
Colloredo-Mansfeld said that advising is one aspect of Carolina Away that his team has been focused on. Carolina Away students will have access to advisers who have been trained to accommodate the virtual experience, he said.
Additionally, students will be paired with a mentor for support and to help them make connections on campus and through the program, Carolina Together states. As of July 9, Colloredo-Mansfeld said some details of the program are still being finalized.
“Some of this is under construction; the mentoring part would be under construction,” he said. “We don’t have any pieces in place now, but it is something that we’re looking into.”
He said that the program recognizes the unique needs of online students.
“There is a dedicated approach to advising these students,” Colloredo-Mansfeld said. “These students have specific kinds of needs that have to do with being all-remote learners who are not in Chapel Hill.”
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