CSU plans virtual instruction for fall term

The CSU system, the largest public university system in the country, is the first higher education system to confirm the plans of virtual instruction.

The California State University (CSU) system plans to continue virtual modes of instruction through the fall 2020 term to reduce the spread of coronavirus, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White announced at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

According to the California Department of Public Health, coronavirus remains on an upward trend with 71,141 positive coronavirus cases and 2,934 deaths in California as of May 12. At least two cases have been linked to Cal Poly Pomona.

“This approach to virtual planning is necessary for many reasons,” said White. “First and foremost is the health, safety and welfare of our students, faculty and staff, and the evolving data surrounding the progression of COVID-19 – current and as forecast throughout the 2020-21 academic year.”

Between classes on Feb. 20, students walked through the University Quad, which is where the 2020 commencement ceremonies would have been taking place May 15-17. (Lauren Bruno | The Poly Post)

The 23-campus system serves over 480,000 students, including roughly 27,000 students from CPP — all whom are directly affected by White’s plan.

In a televised interview with CNN on May 13, CPP President Soraya M. Coley stated, “We want to be able to provide our students and their families with sufficient planning time.”

According to the chancellor’s statement, most CSU courses will be online, although certain activity classes may meet in-person following proper precautions.

“It’s important to highlight one of (White’s) points from yesterday, that there’s a difference between online instruction and virtual instruction,” said Juan Garcia, a fourth-year political science student who serves on the CSU Board of Trustees and attended the meeting via Zoom on May 12.

“The CSU is not closed. We’ve just migrated. We moved to a virtual setting,” said Garcia.

Continued virtual instruction will challenge the hands-on, polytechnic learning that CPP is known for as students and faculty are already struggling with the unprecedented transition that took place earlier this semester.

“The best quote I heard (describing) the immediate shift mid-semester was ‘trying to build a plane while flying it,’” said Laurie Starkey, organic chemistry professor.

Student contribution has declined in some cases with the drastic change in instruction.

“I have noticed in our current situation that there is some drop in student engagement and I hear from students that they are struggling with the online pedagogy,” said Dorothy Wills, acting department chair of geography and anthropology.

The confirmation of primarily virtual instruction for the fall semester has detracted some students from returning in August.

“I know a lot of people are thinking of deferring for the semester if it’s going to be online,” said Angeline Martinez, a second-year nutrition student.

Although virtual classes may pose problems for some students, they are encouraged not to sit out the semester as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act is helping to financially support some online training for faculty and staff.

“We are going to have additional training for faculty so that these online learning experiences will be as positive and as engaging as we can make them in this new modality,” said Associate Provost Sepehr Eskandari. “I would encourage students to stay engaged and continue making progress to finishing their program.”

No decision has been finalized about the return of the credit/no credit option for the fall term, according to Eskandari.

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