After the remainder of the spring 2020 semester was moved online in March followed by summer courses being moved online, many students and faculty were left wondering what the fall 2020 semester would look like at PSU.
Pitt State has released plans for the fall 2020 semester including changes to the academic calendar, alternative course delivery methods and a mandatory face mask policy.
The academic fall calendar has been altered. The university decided that Fall Break, which is usually held in October, will now be held on Nov. 23 and 24 and will combine with Thanksgiving break. Following Thanksgiving break, the rest of the semester will take place entirely online.
The delivery methods of many courses set to begin in August have also been modified.
Courses at PSU have normally been delivered in one of three ways: face-to-face, online, or the hybrid method where a minimum of 50 percent of instruction is online and the remaining portion is delivered face-to-face.
In the fall, some courses will allow face-to-face instruction if the class size and the size of the classroom allow for it and when the type of coursework demands it while others will be online or hybrid courses.
The new alternate delivery method is the HyFlex method which combines face-to-face, online, and hybrid methods for a more flexible option for students. All class instruction will be delivered online either synchronously during the scheduled class time or asynchronously via a recording in Canvas. The class will be split into smaller groups by the instructor and those groups will be required to attend in person classes as assigned.
“…They’re just general categories of how instruction can occur and obviously with the situation that’s going on right now… we had to modify some of the methods of delivery because the capacity of the classroom was too large in order to be able to properly social distance,” Howard Smith, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, said. “So, that causes them to step back and look at the enrollments in a particular course and then how that might impact the size of the room that it needed to be in.”
Smith added that professors have “always had the option to deal with students on an individual basis…” depending on specific circumstances. Students should speak with their professors if they have any concerns regarding a course.
Pittsburg State has also released a new mandatory mask policy which left some wondering how that policy would be enforced.
“…If you don’t have a mask and it’s a face-to-face class, then you won’t be allowed to participate in it,” Smith said. “Staff have to wear a mask… There can be disciplinary consequences that have to be applied if people do not adhere to the policy.”
A washable, reusable mask will be given to each student. The university will reevaluate the mandatory mask policy regularly but expects it to remain in place throughout the fall semester.
According to Smith, PSU is committed to following the guidelines and recommendations of the local, state and federal governments.
“Well right now, we’re gonna adhere to whatever orders are out there both locally, statewide, and federally,” Smith said. “So, if the local order is that you can’t have more than x-amount of people (at an event or gathering) then we will adhere to that. We’re gonna maintain social distancing and masks and continue to clean and do those kinds of things. So.., I would say it (the semester) will be different…”
Further plans will be announced as they are finalized.
“…Everything’s unpredictable at this point,” Smith said. “We deal with things on a day by day basis now and I think that will be the motive operation continuing here until they get this under control so who knows how long that will be.”
There have been many changes and alterations thus far and there may be more to come, but PSU President Steve Scott says that the university wants to maintain the safest conditions possible for all students and faculty as well as the residents of Pittsburg.
“At Pitt State, we use the word ‘family’ a lot,” Scott said. “By the time you graduate, there will be faculty and staff who feel very much like family to you. Certainly, you’ll feel like many of your classmates, people who march next to you in band, your fellow teammates, your fellow sorority and fraternity members, are your family. It makes sense, then, that you want to do the right thing to take care of your family. At this time, that means doing what scientific studies have repeatedly shown dramatically reduce the chances of spreading COVID-19: wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding large crowds whenever possible, washing your hands, and staying home if you don’t feel well. We don’t want COVID on our campus. We want to open in August and stay open in order to give each and every student the chance to complete their semester and stay on track toward a degree. We also want to make sure those who work here, as well as people who live in the larger Pittsburg community, are safe.”