OSU admins stress classroom flexibility in re-opening plan

Screen grab Participants in the Cowboys Coming Back town hall were, from left: Monica Roberts, Doug Hallenbeck, Jeanette Mendez and Christ Barlow. 

Oklahoma State University is banking on a flexible approach to classes this fall with a re-opening plan that could blend in-person and virtual learning.

OSU Directer of Media Relations Monica Roberts hosted a video town hall Wednesday with questions directed to three OSU administrators: Jeanette Mendez, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs; Doug Hallenbeck, Vice President, Student Affairs and Chris Barlow, Senior Director, University Health Sciences. In a Q&A format, the town hall covered re-opening as it pertains to instruction, housing and student life.

The trio confirmed a strict adherence to face-masks and social distancing, which included a few new solutions that would mean classrooms in larger spaces like Gallagher-Iba Arena, suites inside Boone Pickens Stadium and the Student Union.

“It will be little different than what we’re used to,” Mendez said. “Main thing, students will be asked to wear masks, social distancing in place in the classroom. Six feet or more for students in all of our classes.

“We have still a commitment to providing you, our student body, the highest level of instruction possible by the best possible faculty in the entire nation. You will still have dedicated faculty that are here to ensure your student success. We also will have different modes of instruction. The majority of our classes will be face to face, but we will have some online education. We also will have some blended and hybrid classes.”

Mendez said meetings with advisers and tutors will also be virtual. There is currently an effort to have faculty create live video for instruction if students miss class due to illness or isolation from exposure. She said students will need to check with faculty to see who has what kinds of virtual options are available. She said many classes may have a more traditional online approach.

A few questions dealt with the move-in period for those living on campus. That will be limited to 850 per day with a limit to the number of people per floor for each residence hall. Each student is allowed to bring two people to help them move in, where masks will be required and there will be limitations on enclosed spaces like elevators and stairwells.

Though the university is going online for the remainder of the fall semester after Thanksgiving break, those living on campus will not be required to go home.

“The idea with gong online is to provide students the opportunity to go home, then they can stay there or wherever they go, when they come back they’re not forced into the class setting – they are able to do remotely. It’s not about forcing students off campus,” Hallenbeck said. “it’s really providing the option to be able to go where you want, come back and to do so in a safe manner or stay home and do it online. Student housing will remain open, dining options will remain open.”

A major revelation during the town hall was that there will not be a mandatory attendance that could affect grading

“We have asked faculty to not use attendance as part of any grade, but they should still take attendance to help in possible contract tracing,” Mendez said. “If you don’t feel well, we do not want you in class.”

Another key takeaway was that OSU will not have a set threshold for positive cases that could force the university online. Barlow said the university is working with the Payne County Health Department and City of Stillwater in partnership to determine what could lead to a shutdown, saying hospitalizations are a big factor.

“It’s an ongoing conversation,” he said. “The fact that we have community spread doesn’t mean that we are going to shut things down.”

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