HSU Seeking Approval for Mix of Limited Face-to-Face and Virtual Instruction in Fall

May 21, 2020 - 9:56am

Humboldt State University is developing a proposal for limited face-to-face instruction this fall, which it expects to submit to CSU system leaders as soon as possible. The guidelines for submitting such requests are expected soon. 

If approved, the proposal would allow HSU to offer limited face-to-face courses in some of HSU’s hands-on activities, labs, and field-based strengths, such as oceanography, forestry, botany, studio art, ceramics, dance, range and soils, bioinformatics, nursing, and others. The campus, however, must also be prepared to return to full virtual instruction if necessary due to health considerations.

CSU campuses will be primarily virtual this Fall, due to the pandemic. However, there is variability among campuses due to many factors, including the population in the surrounding communities and number of local cases of COVID-19. In addition, the campuses vary in the portion of their courses that are lab or activity-based, which is a focus at Humboldt State, where more than 25 percent of course sections fall into those categories.

Under the HSU proposal, health and safety would remain the top priority, with everything contingent on adequate physical distancing, county testing capacity, and cleaning protocols on campus. HSU would continue to collaborate with the Humboldt County Public Health on many measures, including testing and tracing, as needed. There would also be ongoing efforts to de-densify the campus, with many faculty and staff continuing to work remotely. 

If the proposal is accepted, HSU would engage in an extensive planning process this summer, and continued work to improve during the Fall semester. This would involve units across campus and consultation with faculty, staff, students, local health officials, community leaders, the general public, and others.  

While many details remain to be worked out, the HSU proposal is centered on the idea that it is a much different campus in a much different region than most other CSU campuses. The proposal highlights the HSU values and the importance of the student experience, which is grounded in hands-on learning and engagement with the surrounding environment and communities. The remoteness and isolation of Humboldt County, the strong integration and support of the local communities with HSU, and the impact that HSU has on these communities are also highlighted in the proposal.

And, at least at this point, the rate of COVID-19 infection in the county is comparably low when compared statewide.

“We recognize this would be a challenge, and we’re ready to try to do the work necessary to offer the residential, highly personal experience our students and community look for. We are Humboldt. This is what we do!” said HSU President Tom Jackson, Jr. “I will add, Humboldt State and the local community are deeply committed to our students and this region. We will continue doing everything we need to do to protect their health and safety, and we are in a different situation than most other campuses in the state.”

HSU’s approach is similar to one being undertaken at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. The campuses are both in rural and remote communities, are both known for academic programs that feature hands-on learning, and are both anchors of college towns. Each is in a region that is highly reliant on the campus for its economic and cultural vitality.

Development of HSU’s proposal has involved significant consultation on campus, including with faculty groups, student leaders, staff, union representatives, and many others. In addition, President Jackson has consulted extensively with local health officials, community leaders, educators, and the local business community. His goal, he says, is to ensure close cooperation with the community if the University is able to go ahead with its plans for the fall. 

“This is only a proposal that is written with support of many of our local community leaders,” President Jackson said. “If approved, the really hard work is then needed by all of us - both on campus and in the community. Frankly, this is something we want to do for our students, our workforce, and this community, but we can’t do it alone. The alternative is a 100 percent virtual-only modality.”

HSU will be working throughout the summer to ensure it is able to offer a positive, meaningful educational experience for students in the Fall semester, regardless of instructional modality. 

In addition to health and safety, this involves enhancing the virtual teaching and learning experience. During the summer, many faculty members will be engaging in professional development to enhance their online teaching skills through several programs. And many faculty will be certified as mentors in online teaching, able to provide guidance and direction to other instructors who are newer to it.

Once HSU has a decision, there will be extensive outreach to current and incoming students to ensure they are aware of their options. 

President Jackson stressed that HSU will also continue to work collaboratively with local public health and local partners in establishing processes and procedures to ensure the safety of the community. “I live here too, and love it,” he said.

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