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Spartan Fireside webinars answer community questions on upcoming fall semester

July 17, 2020
<p>Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning and Technology and co-host of Spartan Fireside Jeff Grabill.</p>

Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning and Technology and co-host of Spartan Fireside Jeff Grabill.

Michigan State University Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning and Technology Jeff Grabill and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Mark Largent sat down with members of the MSU community to answer questions from students on the fall semester in three Spartan Fireside webinars held this week.

Each fireside had different guests discussing uncertainties, learning and campus experience for the fall. Viewers were also able to submit their own questions during the webinar to receive unscripted answers from the administrators and faculty. The webinars are available to view on their past recordings page.

Here are some highlights from each webinar:

How will MSU respond to the uncertainties around COVID-19 this fall?

Grabill and Largent were joined by College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Senior Associate Dean and Director of Academic and Student Affairs Kelly Millenbah and University Physician David Weismantel to address the uncertainties of returning to campus during the pandemic.

"We've been planning things in real time, with real people on the ground keeping things safe, and probably one of the first things we did was probably a couple weeks in with the cloth face coverings came into being and they've been a key ingredient of what we've been doing on campus probably for the last four months," Weismantel said. "And are going to continue to be a key element on what we do for the coming months and without the face masks, that are called face coverings, and the social distancing, we wouldn't even be able to think about opening campus in the fall."

Weismantel discussed some of the safety procedures taken place on campus. On top of the masks, social distancing and enhanced cleaning, they will be doing regular testing.

The university is aiming to do 800 COVID-19 tests per day for students with symptoms at on-campus sites away from Olin Health Center, with space for those waiting for results to quarantine. These tests will be done in a walk through fashion.

Full health evaluations will still be done at Olin daily as well, this could total to 1,000 tests a day on campus. Students will also be contact traced.

For MSU students without insurance that need testing, Weismantel said MSU will work on a payment plan and can help them find off campus testing with lowered prices as well.

Additionally, they want to have surveillance testing to randomly test students without symptoms on campus to try and find those that are asymptomatic.

Masks will be available for students, but they recommend students bring a few.

Millenbah expressed that the preparation for the fall has been great to find new ways to continue education safely.

By the end of the summer nearly 1,000 faculty will have gone through some type of professional development for the fall semester.

What will MSU’s learning experience be like this fall?

To speak on what online instruction will look like this fall, the hosts were joined by Academic Specialist Andrea Bierema and Academic Specialist and online curriculum coordinator Michael Ristich.

For clarification, there won’t be any entirely prerecorded classes, but some faculty will record lectures for students to see at their convenience.

Grabill said quality internet in dorms shouldn’t be an issue — issues usually stem from gaming systems. They’re encouraging students to bring Ethernet cords as backup but shouldn't need it.

Bierema and Ristich have great experience in online instruction and shared some of their experiences. Ristich spoke on the way he is able to have students interact with each other through online discussions and having them perform lab activities with objects they have at home.

Many viewers asked if it was worth sending a freshman to MSU at all this fall, with all of the changes and heavy online instruction.

Largent said the value of attending MSU isn’t limited to just the classroom as going to class and going to college are not the same thing. He noted that only 4% of college is spent in class and what students learn on their own is more than instructors could teach them.

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As for spring semester, Largent said they need to see how fall semester goes first. He’s expecting a decision after fall classes begin and thinks spring will probably be similar to the fall.

What will MSU’s campus experience be like this fall?

Vice President and Associate Provost for Student Affairs Denise Maybank and Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore came to talk about student life and the campus experience for this fall.

Not all club activities will be done virtually, but many will be Maybank said. In order to introduce new students to organizations, they will be using a virtual platform called Easy Virtual Fair to hold introductory events and keep students engaged.

Maybank said their expectation is to have recreational areas open with social distancing and other protocols. Additionally, the outdoors will be utilized as well, for yoga and zumba classes. There is still not a definitive answer on club sports taking place in the fall.

Larger events will likely not happen the same way. They will be lowered in number of participants and more spaced out at different nontraditional locations.

Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council, or IFC, houses have been updated with stricter cleaning plans similar to the university.

Student Affairs has been working with leaders of IFC to discuss party culture, looking for different ways for Greek life to remain engaged without parties.

Throughout the summer, the university has been testing out residential protocols they will implement in the fall. MSU is working closely with the university physician's office and has a health and safety staff within auxiliary enterprises.

Students are allowed to decide if they wish to stay on campus until Nov. 25 or the entire semester. Although the university is requesting the decision being made by Aug. 1, students can still change their mind until October. The Aug. 1 deadline is set so that students are charged the correct amount. If they end up needing money refunded, it will be returned as credit toward the spring semester.

Students can also choose to stay at home for the semester if all their classes are online this fall.

If the university goes entirely remote again this fall, there will be a similar housing refund to the one this past spring.

With the concern that someone that uses a community bathroom and is symptomatic, the staff will be following enhanced hygiene cleaning recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They will also have wipes available for students to wipe down surfaces before using them.

If someone is showing symptoms is they will be isolated, traced and tested. Over the summer they have has self-isolation areas in Holmes Hall and Spartan Village. Food will be delivered to these students.


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