Due to COVID-19, students and staff of Pittsburg State can expect to see several changes to courses and life on campus in the fall.
Professors and instructors were given more notice of changes than they were last spring and are thinking about their courses and how they will handle them.
Many courses will have a modified delivery method in the fall. Some will be entirely online through Canvas and Zoom, others will be entirely face-to-face, and some will be hybrid courses which are courses that require a minimum 50 percent of instruction be taught online and the other half taught in person. The new method of instruction is called the hyflex model which means courses will be delivered online either synchronously during the scheduled class time or asynchronously via a recording in Canvas. Each class will be split into smaller groups by the instructor and required to attend on-campus sessions as assigned.
“We recognize that coming up with solutions during a pandemic is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “So, our faculty, chairs, and deans have worked this summer to look at each and every course across campus, look at each and every classroom and building, and figure out ways to be as safe as possible.”
Shirley Drew Triplett, communication professor, has 12 speech communication courses and there have been modifications to most of those courses. According to Triplett, some of her courses are hyflex models but professors have the options to deal with students on an individual basis and allow exceptions to in person meetings or classes.
“…There’ll be exceptions,” Triplett said. “First of all, any accommodations we need to make.., we’ll get letters from the student accommodation office telling us what exceptions certain students need and we’ll provide those automatically. Then, if there are other kinds of issues, we’ll have to do those case by case and of course that means being flexible. So, if a student says I would be more comfortable staying at home and doing this class on Zoom then that’s what we’ll do… There are so many unknowns but we’re gonna have to figure out what works best for everybody and try to do the best we can. So, those 12 sections we’re talking about 300 students and that’s gonna be tough to manage but I have four graduate assistants and so I’m going to meet with them this next week on Zoom and we’re gonna try to figure out ways to make this work for everybody so it’s safe for instructors and safe for students…”
Classroom settings and life on campus is going to look different in the fall.
“Well of course we’ll all be wearing masks and students are now going to be required to wear masks and that is certainly going to save us a lot of hassle in terms of everybody feeling safe,” Triplett said. “…The instructors are all going to be supplied with face shields as well… I don’t exactly what it’s going to look like… but something that puts further barrier between the instructor and the students which is gonna be hard in some of my classes. I’m not even sure how its gonna work but we’re going to do whatever’s necessary to keep people safe.”
Art professor Li-Lin Tseng has been working on navigating online teaching and trying to make the experience as easy as possible for students.
“…Actually, I have taught online courses before and to change my face-to-face courses to online courses I don’t think it’s very difficult,” Tseng said. “…So, online discussion questions are pretty useful. Every month, I also have quizzes, so I also transform the in-class exams into online quizzes and judging from my experiences in summer and also spring 2020, it went pretty well… I want to emphasize that these Zoom meetings are really wonderful because through the meetings, I can present PowerPoint presentations just the same as what I have done in the classroom and students have expanded to my PowerPoint presentations through Zoom meetings pretty well. I also can play videos… and audios and I can even conduct classroom activities through Zoom meetings… So, my feeling is that Zoom has really helped me and my students… Another one is Canvas. Canvas is really useful, wonderful as well.”
Many changes have been made to ensure to health and safety of everyone on campus.
“…In terms of the classroom, the challenges of course will be keeping distance from the other students and providing their own masks,” Triplett said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that there’s no more than 30 percent of the capacity filled in a classroom. So, for example, if you have 30 seats in a classroom, only 10 students will attend at a time. So, we’re trying everything we can think of to reduce those challenges for students. I really don’t know what the some of the challenges are going to be for students. One might be that a lot of students like online classes but a lot of students don’t and some people maybe don’t feel as connected when they’re doing courses online and I get that because we were completely online last spring and it was really hard to connect with students that way, had a lot of Zoom meetings with students and that seemed to help but there’s that whole… issue of Zoom fatigue and all of that. So, I guess I’m not sure of all the challenges for students but masks is one, distance is another, and just engaging in a way that’s best for their learning style and they’re not going to necessarily be able to choose their best learning style in some courses…”
According to Tseng, there won’t be as many challenges in the fall as there were in March.
“… The biggest challenges took place in March this year and also April,” Tseng said. “But I guess my students are more familiar with online teaching now. So, in terms of challenges I don’t think there’s much… because in March and April my students and I, we worked together and talked to each other through Zoom and through email so we tried to diminish those challenges and we… (overcame) those challenges by providing online quizzes, online discussions and online assignments. I am always available for students. They are free to reach me through Zoom so we can see each other face-to-face… So, I feel like… technology… has really helped me to diminish those kinds of potential challenges.”
The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology really helped Tseng last spring.
“I wanted to thank the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology because through their center I was able, as an instructor, to learn more about online teaching in particular in March,” Tseng said. “…Almost every day I was attending different kind of workshops and tried to find a way to help myself and to also help my students and overcome those kind of challenges… I found those workshops (to be) really wonderful…”
Triplett is “nervous” about the fall semester.
“…I’m anxious to get back and be with students because last spring was really hard being away from students and trying to do everything online but I’m also very nervous about it because the cases keep shooting up and we’re in this whole second wave and so I’m very concerned about everybody who is gonna be on campus..,” Triplett said.
PSU is doing everything they can to make sure students can have the best semester possible with all of the changes but still keep everything safe, according to Scott.
“We appreciate the dedication of everyone involved to ensure our students have a safe but also academically sound semester,” Scott said.