Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
Pensacola State College’s fall semester begins Monday, Aug. 17, and it will be unlike any period in the College’s 72-year history.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, PSC will offer more online courses than face-to-face classroom sessions ─ a first for the College.
Only 18.7 percent of fall classes will be completely face-to-face classes, compared to 76.9 percent in fall 2019. This year, 60.3 percent of classes will be completely online, and 21 percent will be hybrid courses, meaning face-to-face and online sessions. Last year, just under 20 percent of classes were totally online and 4.6 percent were hybrid classes.
And those classes that are held at a PSC campus or center will be conducted with numerous safety precautions, including face masks, face shields and social distancing.
“We’re optimistically ready,” said PSC President Ed Meadows. “We’ve done everything we can to ensure that the main ingredients for safety are there. We didn’t reinvent the wheel. The protocols and procedures we have installed have been vetted by professionals and have been used elsewhere. And we’re hopeful that everyone who comes on campus will respect those safety guidelines.”
Administrators decided which classes to offer face-to-face and which to offer online based on physical sizes of classrooms as well as which classes could be effectively taught online. Many workforce programs such as HVAC, carpentry, welding and cosmetology require some face-to-face, hands-on components. But all students and faculty will be required to wear face masks and face shields in classrooms, and when social distancing is not possible.
PSC Spanish instructor Amber Carey is only teaching one face-to-face class this fall. The rest are online classes. But she knows that even her familiar face-to-face class won’t be quite as familiar as before.
“I’m used to walking around the class and engaging with students,” said Carey, who was recently inducted into the PSC Academy of Teaching Excellence. “I have students partner together. I can’t do that now. I have to remain at the front of the class. It’s going to be different. But I think PSC has done everything it can to open safely for the faculty and staff.”
While Meadows said he believes PSC’s safety protocols will be effective, there is the ability to change and add other protocols if needed.
“You can never predict the things you don’t know,” Meadows said. “And as much as you try to plan, there are things that are going to come up that you didn’t think about. But we believe the main ingredients are there for safety.”
But, he said, there are some things that PSC can’t control, such as the practices that students and faculty follow outside the College environment concerning social distancing, wearing face masks and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended safety procedures.
“We just have to make sure we don’t let our guard down,” he said. “We need to keep sanitizing our hands, wearing our masks and observing social distancing. And if we do that, hopefully everyone will be safe.”
And while safety is a priority, so is academic success, Meadows said.
“We know some students are not used to 100 percent online classes,” he said. “And some of them only have those online classes this semester. We need to keep a close watch over the students’ progression so we can implement intervention strategies if they are falling behind or not having success. We want our students to be safe and successful.”