By Gabrielle Owens
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Youngstown State University created different class modalities to enable students to learn in new ways. As spring semester approaches, many students and staff members may wonder how classes will be held.
Brien Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs, has a plan to keep all class modalities the same for the upcoming semester.
“We at Youngstown State would love nothing more than to have our students back on campus [attending] all face-to-face classes, but we were certainly hoping by now that for spring semester we’d have a vaccine available or COVID-19 would’ve gone away and we could’ve said starting in spring were all back the way we were before,” Smith said. “But especially given that course schedules are due soon, I had to make a decision that we’re going to go ahead and offer classes using the same modality that we used in the fall.”
Smith and his staff worked together to create the five class modalities for the fall semester, which includes: agile-hybrid, traditional face-to-face, online, online-live and virtual modalities.
“The actual counsel for what modality exists came out of a task force that we had this summer that myself and associate provost Jennifer Pintar chaired together, but it was really the work of some great faculty and great administrators. After a lot of discussion, we realized that there are only five different ways you can teach a class,” he said.
Hillary Fuhrman, interim director of the institute for teaching and learning, and her staff cooperated with the department of cyberlearning and IT customer services to create the creative course delivery website, which involved a series of workshops to help prepare faculty for teaching in the different modalities for the fall semester.
“As a member of the committee that decided on the modalities and as a member of the ACT group and the office of teaching and learning, I went to the chairs across campus to discuss the different modalities and we had material to help faculty make decisions about which modalities to choose from,” she said.
Fuhrman said the process for training faculty was to offer resources for students and faculty.
“Another thing we wanted to focus on was student success and how to design a course, but also, how can we help students be motivated or involved and to connect them with resources if they need them?” she said.
Brian Vuksanovich, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology, said he had a good semester while teaching in the different class modalities.
“So far, it’s been pretty good. I have two sections of a lab that I do in person and then I have two classes that I teach online,” he said. “The online classes and Blackboard Collaborate have been pretty good as well. I can share video with the students and it allows for interactivity, and I ended up with a lot of content online that they can use.”
Jeanne Herman, university registrar, said registration for the spring semester will begin Nov. 2, allowing students to register for their classes by appointment only.
“On Nov. 2, the registration schedule is published on the Office of Registrar website and registration starts with graduate students and goes down the line, and it’s based on the hours students have completed,” she said.
Herman said when students apply for their spring semester classes, they have the option to change their class modality to one that goes with their learning style.
“So, if a student really learns best from a traditional face-to-face class, they should look for that modality, you have to click on your particular CRN and the instructional method will appear,” she said. “For example, I know a lot of students struggle with math classes online, maybe they need to look for those classes in the traditional face-to-face modality. I think it depends on the student and it depends on the type of course.”
Smith said students should communicate with their professor if they need help with transitioning through the different class modalities.
“Be bold and reach out. For example, say, ‘My understanding of this modality is that we’re going to meet every Tuesday in person, is that correct?’ That would help. Also, the chairpersons of their college would be a good resource as well,” he said.