As the fall semester kicked off, universities in Tokyo and the surrounding area, where daily new COVID-19 cases are still relatively high, have been slow in shifting to physical classes. But in the Chubu region, many are increasing the number of such classes after conducting them mostly online in the beginning of the academic year, which started in April.
On Oct. 2, Nagoya University partially resumed face-to-face classes after holding all classes online except for lab work in the first semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the university entered the fall semester, first-year students attended classes on campus for the first time since they entered the university in April.
While some were worried about going to physical classes, many students said they finally felt their college life had started, and they were hoping to make friends at last.
“Please take advantage of this face-to-face class and feel free to ask questions,” said mathematics professor Shigeyuki Kondo, who was wearing a face shield, as first-year students of the university’s School of Engineering listened attentively to his lecture on linear algebra.
Around 70 students attended a lecture in a hall which accommodates 175 people. Hand sanitizer was placed at the entrance.
“The lecture was much easier to understand (compared with online lectures) and I could concentrate more,” said Ryohei Kameda, 19.
Miu Ishikawa, 19, a first-year economics student, said that the only time she came to the campus after she entered the university had been when she went through orientation for new students.
Although she became acquainted with her classmates via social media, she could talk with them only through video calls.
“I was feeling worried because I didn’t know what college classes would be like,” Ishikawa said, recalling the six months of not being able to come to the campus.
“I finally feel I have become a college student,” she said with a smile.
Students lined up at the cafeteria during lunch time and a college shop was bustling with people.
Shion Kinoshita, 19, a freshman in the School of Science, and Fumihiro Igawa, 18, a freshman in the School of Engineering, were chatting while eating lunch in the university’s courtyard.
They both joined a soccer club for which training started in late July. But since they haven’t seen classmates outside of the club, they said it took time for them to decide what to wear for the day.
Other universities are shifting to physical classes too.
Aichi University in Nagoya, which held all classes online in the spring semester, resumed face-to-face classes in the fall semester that began in mid-September. Starting Oct. 5, 70 percent of the courses will be taught through physical classes.
Nanzan University in Nagoya, with a four-semester school year, is holding more than 20 percent of its courses face-to-face in the third quarter that began in mid-September. It plans to further increase face-to-face classes as it monitors the situation regarding COVID-19 infections.
Shinshu University in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, which held all classes online in the first half of the school year, will offer both online and face-to-face courses in the second half.
“The situation of infections has more or less settled down and we are getting ready to bring back face-to-face classes,” said a Shinshu University spokesperson.
Shiga University in Hikone started on Oct. 1 offering face-to-face classes for 30 to 40 percent of its courses, including physical activity classes.
Gifu University in the city of Gifu, which had partially resumed face-to-face classes in June, will increase such courses as much as possible in the second term that began this month.
“Online classes are not sufficient as college courses,” Gifu University President Hisataka Moriwaki said in a news conference held at the end of September. The university offers ¥30,000 each to students living alone who are facing economic difficulties.
Fukui University in the city of Fukui held science experiments and hands-on training classes face-to-face and lecture classes online in the first half of the school year. It will expand face-to-face courses to small classes in the second half.
Mie University in Tsu is holding a majority of courses online throughout the current school year except for experiments and hands-on training classes.
While it hopes to prioritize resuming face-to-face classes for mandatory courses, a Mie University spokesperson said, “We have to be cautious because there are many students commuting to school from nearby prefectures.”
According to an education ministry survey, a majority of the institutions in the Chubu region said they plan to have more than half of courses be face-to-face.
But the same survey, conducted in August and September on public and private universities and technical colleges nationwide, showed that institutions in the Kanto region, which is seeing a continuing spread of infections, are slow to move on to holding face-to-face classes.
This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Oct. 3.