After planning for months for the safety of students, employees and visitors, Minnesota State Technical and Community College will have on campus, hybrid and online courses for the fall semester. The Wadena courses have a “sizeable percentage” on campus with technical programs such as electrical technology, nursing and cosmetology, according to vice president of academic and student affairs John Maduko.
The plans have been “evolving” with surveys sent to faculty members about their preference for teaching online, in-person or both along with the resources needed to offer the courses and meet health, safety and academic standards, according to chief financial officer Pat Nordick and Maduko.
The options include face-to-face, blended with in-person and online portions, flex with on campus classes where students and instructors decide to come in-person or on Zoom, online and online with video classes at a scheduled time, according to Maduko and the M State website.
Students can see the course delivery options while registering. Of the 102 courses offered through the Wadena campus, there are 45 courses on campus with a majority for the electrical technology and electrical lineworker technology programs, 30 courses online, 17 online video courses such as nursing and mathematics and 10 courses blended, according to their website.
With courses on campus, the preparations include separate entrances for employees and students and visitors, an online screening tool, masks, rearranging furniture and bathrooms for social distancing, and discontinuing water fountains, according to Maduko and Nordick.
“Safety is paramount and safety trumps everything because we want to make sure that people leave M State in the same condition they came to us,” Maduko said.
The facility staff members have diligently worked through the constantly changing needs. Three classrooms became one spaced out classroom, four additional classrooms were cleaned out and repainted, technology items and plexiglass were arranged, removed chairs and tables were stacked in the hallways, and cleaning of door handles, light switches and computers will continue throughout the campus. Just 10 years ago, the college was preparing classrooms for Wadena-Deer Creek high school students to use after the tornado, Nordick said.
Since the college brings in students from various counties, Nordick said they are reminding students to practice social distancing off campus as well to not negatively impact the hospital systems throughout M State’s campus areas. In the Aug. 6 weekly report from the Minnesota Department of Health, 24% of all COVID-19 cases are in the 20-29 years-old range.
“We know we’re dealing with a population that is had a lot of positive tests so we’re going to try to communicate to them that it’s important if we want to continue to have classes on campus that everybody is responsible and does what they’re asked to do because if we get an outbreak in the county then we likely will have to change our delivery method,” Nordick said.
Across M State’s campuses, 7,000 masks will be available for students who do not have one, according to Maduko. Face shields may also be available for those unable to wear a mask, students in electrical technology classes and instructors, according to Nordick. The college weekly reports how much personal protective equipment they have and challenges in acquiring items. Nordick said availability has slightly increased over the summer and a current challenge is disinfectant wipes.
Another challenge is enrollment, which was down approximately 20% when summer and fall registration opened and is now down about 5%, according to Maduko. The percentages compare fall to fall.
“We’re trending OK for now,” Maduko said.
Students will have a virtual welcome week with panel discussions and staff, faculty and administrators available to connect, according to Maduko. The fall semester begins on Aug. 24.
“We’re excited to get our students back. It was very tough,” Nordick said. “We’ll just take it day by day, I guess is kind of how we’re looking at it. We feel we’re prepared for the students. We’ve done all we can to assist with social distancing.”
M State’s return to learn plan can be viewed at www.minnesota.edu/return-to-learn.