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For Fall 2020, Georgia State University will adopt a blended learning approach to optimize learning while respecting student and instructor safety within our classroom environments. Blended learning integrates traditional, face-to-face classroom instruction with online asynchronous digital learning. The online components can include different forms of media such as text, audio and video that are combined with the face-to-face method of instruction within the same course.
The blended instruction model is in keeping with plans by all University System of Georgia (USG) institutions to hold face-to-face classes this fall in accordance with USG guidelines. Those interested can review the USG’s Return to Campus Planning Framework.
New Plan – Revisions
Below we provide a summary of items that have recently changed in the Fall Plan. You can review a full set of questions and answers at the FAQs on Georgia State Ahead website. Five-Step Strategy provides an overview of actions to take to prepare for fall.
The original plan announced earlier this summer adopted a blended learning model that aimed to reduce density by 50 percent or more in classrooms and to limit the days most students and instructors would be on campus. Because of the increasing rate of COVID-19 in Georgia, the university has shifted the target for classroom density to 25 percent capacity to enable six feet of social distancing for each individual.
Instructors have flexibility to determine how best to use their time in class under the revised plan. The revised plan also allows for department chairs to recommend that some classes move fully online where 25 percent attendance is not pedagogically suited, and/or to meet student demand. Those instructors who wish to meet in person more frequently than allowed under the 25 percent model may request to be scheduled in a larger classroom that allows for six feet of social distancing. Some classes also will be held entirely face-to-face where necessary or feasible and safety can be maintained. The university will prioritize in-person classes for freshman, graduate and professional students, as well as experiential learning, labs and other coursework that strongly benefits from this modality.
All requests to change modality or move to a larger space must be approved by the department chair, relevant dean and provost. Priority will be given to those requests made prior to July 31. Departments should prioritize options for in-person classes and pathways for Freshman Learning Communities, graduate and professional students.
Forming Student Groups
With the revised plan, instructors have the flexibility to determine how best to use the in-person class time in the revised 25 percent model. One option would be to divide students into cohorts that attend class only on specific days. For most classes, students would typically meet in person once every two weeks or three weeks per class, depending on how many days per week the class meets.
Based on historical enrollment patterns, students could be divided alphabetically into groups by:
- A – Du
- Dv – La
- Lb – Re
- Rf – Z
For most class sessions, these groupings will not create a perfect 25 percent split, and instructors will need to make some adjustments to ensure class sections are evenly distributed based on available seating in classrooms. In GoSOLAR, classrooms will have 25 percent of seats marked as usable, so it’s important to divide the class roster accordingly.
Deviations from these recommendations are permitted for pedagogical reasons and based on compelling individual student requests at the instructor’s discretion. There also may be other criteria that may make more sense for some types of courses. Instructors may adjust their class divisions accordingly. The goal is to reduce the number of days any student is on campus. An alphabetical division of cohorts in each class will help to meet this goal.
In all cases, it’s important that the instructor provide the schedule of attendance and course delivery method to students by:
- on syllabi
- in iCollege or alternate online course website
by August 12 or earlier if possible.
Instructions for implementing and emailing groups in iCollege and practices for fall instruction can be found in iCollege Practices.
Seating Plans: Additionally, instructors will be asked to maintain seating chart(s) for the in-person portion of any class. Should someone in the class become ill, this will help us identify who, if anyone, should be contacted. Find seating chart templates and upload completed charts at: https://cetl.gsu.edu/seating-charts.
Advantages of Blended Learning
In addition to allowing us to reduce density in classrooms and on our campuses, the model offers a great deal of flexibility to faculty in structuring their classes. It also ensures students will have opportunities to interact with their instructors face to face to enhance learning outcomes and secure some of the benefits of our campus environment. It will allow examinations to be administered in a face-to-face setting where desired by the instructor to enhance academic integrity.
Should we need to move to entirely online classes at any point in the semester because of the pandemic, this model will aid that transition because some course content will already be in an online format.
Preparing for Blended Learning
Instructors who’ve not already done so should enroll in a Mastering Online Teaching course offered through CETL. CETL also can consult with individuals and departments to identify the best way to structure specific disciplinary courses and achieve excellent learning outcomes using the blended learning model.
The situation with the pandemic is fluid, and we’ll continue to adapt our plan as new public health recommendations emerge. For that reason, instructors should develop contingency plans in their syllabi to take classes fully online at any time if the need arises. It’s important every instructor prepare a contingency syllabus that is entirely online in the event a shift is required because of the pandemic. If such a shift becomes necessary, it’s unlikely we’ll suspend classes for two weeks as we did in spring semester, so advance planning is a necessity.
Course Exceptions – Meeting More Frequently than 25%
If a class really needs to meet more frequently than the 25 percent blended learning model allows, it is possible to do so in some cases. Aside from safety, our highest priority is to preserve in-class programming for:
- Populations that experience greater educational success rates with in-person programming (freshmen, for example);
- Classes that benefit significantly from this modality (such as experiential classes and labs);
- Graduate and professional classes in which learning takes place in similar settings.
We have already approved a number of requests for a course to be entirely taught in a face-to-face format. Those classes will proceed as scheduled.
Instructors also can ask department chairs if their classes may meet more frequently than a 25 percent capacity would typically permit. In such cases, we may be able to identify a larger room that will accommodate a larger group of students while maintaining social distancing. Such requests need to be documented and approved by department chairs, the relevant dean and the provost as soon as possible. Space will be allocated as available and based on the priorities identified above.
Individual Student Exceptions
The in-person portion of classes that are taught in a hybrid or face-to-face modality should be essential to instruction. In many if not most cases, it wouldn’t be reasonable to excuse students from all in-class attendance.
Students who need accommodations should be directed to the Access and Accommodations Center. Advisers are working with students who are unable to attend classes in person to direct them to classes that are fully online and make other arrangements that suit their specific needs.