The University of Southern Mississippi has released its plan for this fall’s academic course delivery, including face covering requirements, modifications to classroom setup, and other academic-related changes, as it prepares for a welcoming, interactive, and positive learning environment for students, despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to comply with health protocols, many classes will be transitioned to remote delivery, and others will be relocated to larger rooms to allow for physical distancing between students. All classes, regardless of delivery method, will have remote components and are designed for maximum delivery flexibility.
The following further explains the three types of course delivery methods that will be utilized in the fall:
- In-person: No classes over an enrollment capacity of 50 will be offered in person due to space constraints; room capacity under COVID-19 precautions is approximately 25-33% of the typical level
- Online: Classes that are strictly hosted remotely through Canvas; these classes may have meetings that require all students to log in at the regularly scheduled class time to meet as a group, or they may offer more flexibility by allowing students to choose when they wish to listen to lectures
- Hybrid: Classes that combine some face-to-face meetings with remote learning. For example, a class might meet one day each week rather than two and require students to listen to a second lecture online and complete work remotely on their own. Other classes may have alternate day attendance, where half the class attends one day and the other half attends the second day; in that case, all students would have access to course materials online.
Because the number of available classrooms that will allow for recommended physical distancing are limited, the process of choosing which classes are held in-person have been prioritized to those: 1) with learning outcomes that are extremely difficult to translate to a virtual environment and 2) that primarily serve new USM students.
In addition, all students, faculty, staff, contractors, and visitors will be required to wear a face covering while on campus. Exceptions to this are if an individual is alone in an office, residence hall room, or similar space; medical issues prevent a face covering from being worn; or an instructor is at least 10 feet from students while teaching. For further safety, physical distancing of at least six feet will be required of everyone at all times. The use of plexiglass will be considered in teaching spaces where appropriate, and all faculty office hours, student-faculty conferences, group work, and other interactions will be conducted virtually.
Classes for the fall 2020 semester will begin on August 17, and conclude on November 23. This format will decrease the flow of students to and from campus for holidays and allow the semester to end slightly earlier. Throughout the semester, students should anticipate tests and other assignments to be completed or submitted digitally where possible to avoid exchange of materials by hand. If paper is used, care will be taken to follow proper handwashing and other protocols as specified by the CDC.
Final exams will be scheduled during the week of November 30 through December 4. All exams during that week will be administered virtually.
USM will also be implementing comprehensive health and safety protocols to include COVID-19 Testing and Case Management, Reporting Processes, and Contact Tracing, and Education and Training. Residence halls, dining services, and other support services are scheduled to be fully operational under the new COVID-19 protocols.