With spring 2020 coming to an end, many are wondering if distance learning will continue throughout next fall. As students head into finals week online, five working groups have been formed to see what Plattsburgh State’s options are.
PSU has come up with three possible scenarios pertaining to fall 2020. The first one is the continuation of distance learning until spring 2021. Campus would remain vacant, except for students with no other living arrangements, and all classes would be facilitated online via Zoom. The second scenario is the return of normalcy. Students would return to campus and residents halls to carry out classes in person. Lastly, the third scenario would be a hybrid of the first two. Students would be permitted to return to campus under social distancing guidelines. New campus rules could limit resident hall and class populations.
The operational continuity, health and safety group, chaired by Vice President for Administration and Finance Josee Larochelle, is looking into precautions with COVID-19. This includes testing and social distancing restrictions if students are permitted on campus in the fall.
The housing and campus life working group, chaired by Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Bryan Hartman, is considering what campus housing will look like if students return in the fall given social distancing constraints on campus. This group also looks into campus activities, athletics and other related activities.
“We are looking at housing scenarios from a normal opening, to all students must have a single, to all students must have their own bathroom. We are exploring what the implications are to all of those. Those are the options that we can define now,” Hartman said via an email statement. “However, we will follow local, state, and federal public health guidelines. Those continue to change and are expected to be very different by the time August comes around. I cannot speculate as to what those are.”
The student support and equity group, chaired by Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Michelle Cromwell, will focus on student needs.
The admissions and student recruitment marketing group, chaired by Vice President for Institutional Advancement Ann Hansen, will focus on the needs of incoming and international students for fall 2020. The group is also tasked with researching how PSU could recruit under the circumstances and seek alumni assistance.
The academics and instructional continuity group, chaired by Vice President for Academic Affairs David Hill, is tasked with reviewing how academics will carry on given the pandemic. This includes technology, library services, pedagogy, course scheduling and course evaluations. Hill’s working group is also trying to prepare faculty for another possible semester of distance learning. Using Zoom to teach a class was a novelty to some. He said faculty will sometimes get together on a Zoom call for “Friday Night Cocktail Hour,” a PSU professor get-together where faculty can share funny Zoom class stories. On one occasion, a student arrived to class in a bathrobe unaware that the camera was on in the call. There was also an instance when a professor lectured a class for 15 minutes on mute without realizing. Jokes and funny stories aside, faculty members compare notes and experiences from Zoom, so they can make improvements in case distance learning continues.
“We have to know what we need to do to be prepared for any one of those possibilities,” Hill said.
Hill’s group met once this week and broke off into different sections to research each of the three scenarios individually. He acknowledges that some classes, like labs and studios, cannot be accommodated by Zoom and must be offered to prevent any disruption to a student’s academic career. Hill said it’s too early to determine what scenario is more likely. However, he knows things on campus won’t be the same.
“I don’t know how radically different it will be,” Hill said. “But it will [be different].”