When the global COVID-19 pandemic forced universities across the country to pivot to remote instruction during the spring and summer semesters, the likelihood of resuming face-to-face classes seemed doubtful this fall.
Working with faculty, public health officials and government leaders, college and university administrators — including those at Florida State University — laid out detailed plans on how they would safely bring back students and faculty to campus.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” President John Thrasher said. “We didn’t know where the numbers were going or what would happen. Nobody had experienced this before. But everybody has pulled through, and I think we’ve had a reasonably good semester.”
While it has been a semester like no other at FSU, students, faculty and staff have risen to the challenges of the pandemic with resilience and strength. The tremendous campus-wide effort to prioritize the health and safety of the campus community allowed FSU to begin to repopulate campus this fall.
“I think we’re providing the kind of education that you expect at a world-class, elite university, but it takes a lot of folks doing that,” Thrasher said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team and everybody who has participated in this effort, particularly our faculty.”
The university has followed CDC guidelines for social distancing, wearing face coverings, and cleaning and disinfecting of all buildings. In addition, FSU implemented an on-campus testing program with its own lab that allows for a quick turnaround of results, plus a contact assessment initiative.
“I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to teach our classes in a very safe way here on campus,” Provost Sally McRorie said. “We have no examples of any community spread happening in a classroom, a studio or a laboratory here. That’s important to me.”
This fall, about 36 percent of FSU’s classes are being taught in person. In the spring, plans are in place to increase face-to-face courses to about 56 percent of those offered.
“It’s a hallmark of who we are at Florida State University,” McRorie said. “We’ve had a long reputation of offering many more face-to-face and highly interactive classes than nearly anybody else in the country.”
Every class that needs to be taught in-person because of the nature of the course will be delivered face-to-face in the spring, and there will be opportunities for almost every student to take at least one or two face-to-face classes. That includes increased sections for freshmen and transfer students, who may not have been on campus this fall, to assist in their transition and make them truly feel part of the FSU community.
The university also will offer hybrid classes, which combine some face-to-face classes with some remote classes. In addition, FSU will introduce a hyflex mode of instruction that offers both face-to-face and remote components, so students can either be in the classroom while the class is underway or be using remote technology to access the class synchronously.
“We have worked hard to be able to offer as many face-to-face, hybrid and hyflex classes, studios and labs in Spring 2021 as possible, while following all CDC guidelines,” McRorie said. “Given our many beautiful, but older buildings, we have a great number of small classrooms that cannot efficiently or effectively be used, while safely following social distancing guidelines.”
McRorie commended the faculty who have stepped up to teach face-to-face classes in the spring.
“They said they missed teaching face-to-face and wanted to help protect their more vulnerable colleagues,” she said. “That is the kind of amazing faculty we have here, and I am enormously proud of everyone.”
While FSU looks forward to expanding face-to-face classes and activities in the spring, the university’s top priority remains health and safety.
“All we want to do is to make sure the students have the best experience as they can have under the conditions that we’re in,” Thrasher said. “First and foremost, we want to be safe, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to make our students, faculty and staff safe on this campus.”
For more information on Florida State University’s efforts on campus healthy and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit stayhealthy.fsu.edu.