STARKVILLE, Miss.— In response to students and their families seeking specific additional information and guidance regarding the Spring Semester 2021, Mississippi State University is aware that the Fall Semester 2020 has been a unique learning experience of delivering courses safely and effectively to MSU students.
As we prepare for the Spring Semester 2021, we consider the situation we may expect from a pandemic standpoint, coupled with what we have learned from the fall semester.
The Spring Semester 2021 will include an increased number of courses that are offered face-to-face (F2F) but still maintaining social distancing and face mask requirements.
When a course is offered F2F, faculty are to revert to the accommodations provided by our academic operating policies (AOPs).
Livestreaming or video capture will not be required of every course if the instructor has other effective means of delivering accommodations for those students with excused absences. Audio/video capture will still be available as an option for those faculty who choose that as a means of academic accommodation. The university certainly encourages the use of this technology. Additional strategies utilizing best practices to accommodate students may include providing slides and handouts, online office hours and chat rooms, etc.
Students who miss class must obtain documentation for an excused absence in keeping with our AOPs and requirements outlined in the course syllabus. Students with absences due to COVID-19 precautions/quarantining may be required to obtain an excused absence from the Longest Student Health Center. Other non-COVID-19 absences will require an excuse. Instructors should still be compassionate as the university continues to try to maintain best practices during this pandemic.
Faculty must state the course delivery method prior to enrollment, allowing students to know what to expect when they enroll, and hold to that delivery method for the semester except in exceptional circumstances, and only as approved by the dean and provost.
Faculty teaching F2F classes are encouraged to consider lessons learned from the fall semester and incorporate effective synchronous and asynchronous learning tools to enhance the educational outcomes for students. While recording class attendance is challenging with the various modes of instruction employed, it is highly encouraged to take attendance to help with student engagement and accountability.
Faculty teaching hybrid courses that are choosing to have F2F components must clearly define the days and weeks in which classroom attendance will be required. That allows the students to plan their schedule more effectively and will aid in more effective classroom utilization, given the high demand for classroom space under physical distancing requirements. This information must be communicated to the students prior to the first day of classes.
Faculty should post the course syllabi on the web (in Banner) prior to registration advising. Hence, students understand the instructional mode and level of effort required to complete the course (e.g., assignments, assessments, etc.).
Departments and faculty are encouraged to work with students to avoid issues and conflicts regarding exams and other major assessments. Online students can only be administered online assessments; that is, they cannot be required to come to campus to take an exam. Common exams resulting in conflicts with other scheduled classes will result in an accommodation for the course that caused the conflict. Final exams will follow the AOPs in terms of timing and delivery method.
MSU believes that transparency regarding these issues with students, their families, and our dedicated faculty and staff is the key to eliminating confusion and inconsistency in the application of these academic guidelines and requirements.
Those with additional questions or concerns are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.