As faculty prepare for a hybrid semester, course schedules change

Chloe Byers, then-sophomore in marketing, multitasks while doing her homework online. In the fall, at least 20 percent of the courses at K-State will be offered virtually or in a hybrid model. (File Photo by Paige Eichkorn | Collegian Media Group)

Between now and Aug. 3, changes will be made to student’s schedules as some classes pivot to distance learning models to accommodate the guidelines in place for COVID-19 prevention on campus.

Marissa Peaslee, junior in kinesiology, said she noticed at least one of her classes and the accompanying quiz section had been shifted to distance learning in her KSIS student center. She said she feels conflicted about it.

“For this semester and considering how [COVID-19] cases have been rising, I think I’d be more comfortable with hybrid or online classes,” Peaslee said. “I’m torn because I know I benefit more from being in person to have discussions and talk to the professors face-to-face.”

Faculty were given the choice of whether or not they wished to teach in person for the fall, but whatever decision they made individually had to comply with university restrictions on class sizes, room capacity and other public health-minded rules.

Lisa Tatonetti, professor of English, said she’s grateful the university gave faculty the chance to select their own teaching paths for the semester. One of her courses will be exclusively online, but the other is tentatively planned to have some in-person meetings. That course, a senior capstone, is expected to have no more than nine students enrolled in it, and at least two have already expressed an interest in doing distance-only education.

“I feel like, just as we’re given the choice, students should be given the choice, and so if there’s going to be an in-person component of the class, that should be either streamed or have some equivalence to make that possible,” Tatonetti said.

If face-to-face meetings work at all, Tatonetti said, it won’t look anything like previous in-person classes did pre-COVID-19. As is university policy, social distancing and mask-wearing will be required.

“I feel like that when students, and me, imagine going back into the classroom, you know you imagine these things that you love, and they will not be there in the same way,” Tatonetti said.

Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness, said at least 20 percent of Kansas State’s courses in the fall are being shifted to online or distance learning models. A lot of the classes are lecture-style classes, but for the most part, the decisions are being made based off each instructor’s comfort level, Niehoff said.

Traci Brimhall, associate professor of English, is teaching a K-State First course — a class only open to first year students. The course will be hybrid, but all in-person components will be completely optional.

“I’m still going to create those opportunities but I don’t want to attach points because I don’t want people to feel like ‘Well, I’ve got a little bit of a cough, but maybe I’ll just go because I need these points for class,'” Brimhall said.

This wasn’t what Brimhall had first planned for the fall. When planning begin, she planned for all in-person classes, but said she watched the local COVID-19 situation deteriorate and more people get sick as reopening started.

“I didn’t feel like it would be safe to do watching the numbers rise,” she said.

Both Tatonetti and Brimhall said online classes have offered a kind of flexibility as well. They open the doors to innovations in instruction and make way for different types of assignments.

Faculty who don’t opt to teach an online or hybrid course are still expected to develop some kind of online component to prepare for the possibility that classes might need to go fully remote if the local and state situation breaks down.

“We just want to make sure people are aware that if this pandemic would take off again, which the predictions are all there that it’s likely to do so, that we may have another shutdown … and who knows what the possibilities are,” Niehoff said.

Though tuition models aren’t certain yet, Niehoff said the goal is for every student to know what they are getting into by the time they get their fall semester bills so they have time to make changes to their schedules to fit their needs.

“The health and safety of the students, as well as faculty and staff are number one. And number two, just trying to continue to put high quality education in front of whoever it is will be our students in the fall,” Niehoff said. “There’s just a lot of challenges that everybody’s facing right now.”

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.