A-State switching to ‘mostly virtual’ classes after Thanksgiving

Updated: Nov. 6, 2020 at 8:06 PM CST
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing across the country and here in the state, Arkansas State University announced Friday it will pivot to virtual instruction.

Chancellor Kelly Damphousse announced on Twitter the university would switch to “mostly-online instruction” after Thanksgiving.

“Despite your hard work on campus, I have grown increasingly concerned about what is happening beyond our campus--locally and statewide,” Damphousse said in his Nov. 6 alert invoking the Thanksgiving option.

He then went on to note that the number of COVID-related hospitalizations in Northeast Arkansas had more than doubled in October and that the White House Coronavirus Task Force has identified Jonesboro and Craighead County as being in the “red zone,” the highest level of COVID concern.

Based on the evidence presented, Damphousse decided to invoke a faculty-designed proposal for optional post-Thanksgiving plans, also known as the “Thanksgiving Option,” which reads:

The Fall 2020 semester will begin as scheduled on August 25, with face-to-face courses planned for the entirety of the semester. However, we are recommending a contingency plan so that if there is a significant increase in coronavirus infection during the late fall, students may not return to face-to-face instruction after Thanksgiving. If this were to become necessary, the remaining lectures, study day, and final examinations will be delivered online. By making this recommendation now, faculty can plan their semester in case this scenario is enacted. As the decision regarding the Thanksgiving option would not be made until absolutely necessary, faculty should use the upcoming summer weeks to prepare for this potential need. Faculty will have the option to allow certain classes (i.e. laboratories, hands-on activities and/or clinical experiences) to continue after Thanksgiving or to advance them so that they are done before Thanksgiving.

This means most classes and final exams will be offered online in the weeks following the Thanksgiving break, Damphousse said. Instructors who would prefer to teach classes in-person will need permission from the provost.

“Given that our instructors have been planning for this possibility since May, I am confident that we will be able to make this transition to mostly online instruction at the end of this semester,” Damphousse said.

He concluded by stating that unlike in the spring, the campus would not be closed. All residence halls, as well as the dining hall, student union, health center, and library, would remain open until Dec. 18.

A-State Communications Director Bill Smith said that the chancellor made the decision “in the best interest of everyone [students, faculty, staff and community]."

Smith also says that A-State should proceed with their original plan for spring semester, however they will act accordingly if circumstances change."

To read the full alert, click here.

Dr. Shane Speights announced Friday, Nov. 6, the campus would pivot to an all-virtual platform...
Dr. Shane Speights announced Friday, Nov. 6, the campus would pivot to an all-virtual platform beginning Nov. 23.(New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University)

Shortly after Damphousse’s announcement, Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University, announced the medical school would pivot to an all-virtual platform beginning Nov. 23.

Students, according to the Friday news release, will not return to campus until the week of Jan. 18. All staff and faculty will work remotely during that time.

“We are entering a time in our state and country where we are seeing and expecting to see a significant increase in viral spread over the coming weeks and months. The recent trends confirmed our need to adjust," Speights said. "We’re very fortunate that our institution is very technology driven, so we have the infrastructure in place to make this transition seamlessly, just as we did when the pandemic initially hit this spring.”

After receiving word that Arkansas State University will go to ‘mostly virtual’ after thanksgiving break, students say that they were not surprised but concerned.

They believe that final exams will be more rigorous online.

Chastity Green, a freshmen at A-State, says her concern is that professors may not be able to make time for them to talk one-on-one.

“It’s kind of hard getting back to the professors in time when you want to talk to them about certain things," she said.

Kayne Wilson, a junior at A-State, says he prefers face-to-face instruction , and the transition will affect him greatly.

“I am more of an in-person, face to face, especially with communication, I think that hits that a lot," he said/

Geniyah Smith, an A-State freshmen, says she likes face-to-face instruction helps her “process” the content better.

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