Winona State University is ready to welcome its students back to campus in fall 2020 and is offering them a variety of options in course delivery methods, such as face-to-face, online, and hybrid formats.
“The health, safety and security of our students, faculty and staff are of the utmost importance,” said WSU President Scott Olson. “It’s also our duty as a higher ed institution to ensure that our students are receiving the best education they can get to prepare them for success in the future. That means considering what students’ academic needs are to progress in their programs without interruption, what their preferences are, and how we can responsibly offer that in a safe environment.”
Immediately following the close of the spring semester, the university began an intensive planning process that included reviewing every single academic program and course to determine what needed to be face-to-face, what could be moved online, and what required a hybrid model that included elements of both.
The result of that process left the university’s course offerings at a mix of about half slated for online delivery, with another 42% being offered in either face-to-face or hybrid methods. Overall (as of June), it was estimated that only about 15% of students would be taking all their courses online.
The university’s Rochester location, which already offered a large number of their courses online pre-COVID, anticipated only about 5% of their classes will meet in-person this fall, with 70% online and 25% in a hybrid format or with limited lab requirements.
WSU has taken the added step of offering a number of its courses, especially general education requirements, in multiple formats, which allows its students to have some choice in the matter.
“We know different students have different priorities and outlooks at the moment,” said WSU Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Chief Information Officer and Interim Dean of Library Ken Janz. “Some students want face-to-face classes because that’s how they learn best. Other students are looking for all online classes, whether that be due to their comfort level amid COVID-19 or for other reasons. We want our students to have a choice in the matter, and we want them to know that we can work with them to get them a fall schedule that fits their needs.”
Winona State is uniquely positioned as a laptop campus to seamlessly pivot and deliver courses to its students across multiple platforms. “As one of the only universities in the region that provides laptops to all its undergraduate students, WSU has the benefit of knowing our students have consistent and uniform access to technology,” explains Janz. “This allowed us to pivot quickly in the spring and is now allowing us to plan comprehensively for the upcoming fall.”
The university also has experience and expertise in online instruction and the most up to date teaching technology tools at the ready. The office of Teaching, Learning and Technology Services on campus exists solely to provide a wide range of services and tools to help faculty members utilize the latest in teaching technology effectively in their classrooms.
Additionally, faculty members are looking at every component of their classes to ensure students receive a superior educational experience while staying safe – whether that be how hands-on learning activities can be adjusted to allow for social distancing or how online courses can be revised to be more engaging for students.
A second part of the university’s planning process included taking a comprehensive look at its classroom spaces across campus to determine new capacity limits to allow for social distancing. That has resulted in a complete remapping of campus to ensure that those classes happening face-to-face are being conducted in a safe environment to prevent further community spread of the virus.
Additional precautions are being taken as well, with hand sanitizing stations being installed outside every classroom space, sanitizing kits being placed inside every classroom to handle any type of potential contamination, all residence halls being converted to single room occupancy (at no additional charge to students), providing masks to every student and employee on campus, and WSU Health Services having the ability to conduct COVID-19 testing and trained in contact tracing – among many other safety measures being implemented.
With all this planning taking place for the academic side of the equation, the need to provide students with social outlets and opportunities to build their WSU community has not been lost on the university. “College is a time for students to gain independence, broaden their horizons, and make new friends,” said Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Life Denise McDowell. “We are committed to providing our students with opportunities to enjoy their college experience from a holistic perspective. We are busy working to create spaces for a campus life experience that allows them to learn, stay healthy, and be safe.”
“What we want students to know,” added Olson, “is that they can still have that college experience they’re looking for, they can set themselves up for a successful future, and Winona State is ready to provide that for them.”
For more information on how Winona State is ready to welcome students back to campus this fall, visit blogs.winona.edu/ready-for-you
About Winona State University
Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive, regional public university with over 7,600 students on campuses in Winona and Rochester. Around half of WSU students are first-generation, meaning neither parent has a four-year bachelor’s degree. The oldest member of the Minnesota State system, WSU offers more than 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate and doctorate programs in five colleges: Business, Education, Liberal Arts, Nursing & Health Sciences, and Science & Engineering.
Winona State is ranked as the second public institution in Minnesota by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges,” has been named among the “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review for 16 years in a row, and has been featured as one of America’s 100 Best College Buys for quality and value for 24 consecutive years. The University generates $447.9 million in economic impact for the region per year. The University’s mission is to enhance the intellectual, social, cultural and economic vitality of the people and communities we serve: a community of learners improving our world. For more information, visit winona.edu.