Faculty hold third town hall to address in-person instruction for fall semester

Troy Pierson, reporter

Kent State faculty members and administrative leaders held a third town hall meeting on Aug. 13 to address how in-person instruction will take place once campus reopens in late August. 

Interim Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley spearheaded the meeting with Executive Director of Educational Technology and Service Management James Raber and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Jenny Marcinkiewicz. The returning panelists included Associate Provost Sue Averill, Faculty Senate Chair Pam Grimm, Faculty Senate Vice Chair and President of the full-time non-tenure track Unit Tracy Laux and President of the Tenure Track Unit Deborah Smith.

Raber addressed the new technologies implemented into classrooms across campus. Every traditional classroom received a Lumens DC125 camera system, which is attached to a gooseneck microphone and stand to allow for different viewing angles. On each classroom’s instructor station, a boundary microphone will be provided to pick up faculty members’ audio, which can receive sound up to 25 feet. The new camera and audio system will work with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for faculty to engage with students who participate remotely. 

Raber said a new webpage is available through the Kent State website on how to use the new live-streaming technology services in classrooms. This page includes how-to video for using the camera and its modes for viewing documents and live streaming. If any faculty member faces technical difficulties with these new technologies in the classroom, they can contact IT support, whose field support members can access those technologies and troubleshoot remotely. 

Kent State’s Division of Information Technology [DoIT] department also took inventory of all computers in classrooms on campus, and replaced those that were four years of age or older with new models to handle video streaming. Tankersley encouraged faculty to visit classrooms on campus and learn how to use technology for simulcasting. All faculty members need to use the technology provided in these classrooms so students do not miss their instruction if they are sick or cannot attend class in person. 

Marcinkiewicz discussed faculty interaction with students, both remotely and in person. When faculty members want students to interact with each other while social distancing, Marcinkiewicz recommends students can use whiteboards to communicate or socialize from a distance with facial coverings. Additional resources for group collaboration includes using the Google suite of products [Docs, Slides] to communicate. When using shared equipment, faculty should ensure students use that equipment one at a time and clean them. 

Tankerlsey said faculty members will be provided with go-bags that contain dry erase markers, erasers, cleaning supplies and 50 disposable face coverings to provide to students who forget a mask for in-person instruction. These bags will be available in the dean’s office in each college at the start of the semester.

Averill said the classrooms on campus will be cleaned on an enhanced schedule, with staff cleaning rooms in between classes multiple times a day. Averill recommends faculty clean their instruction areas with the supplies in their go-bags before class starts. Students will use alcohol wipes to clean down their seating, which will be available in the rooms at dispensers. Faculty do not need to enforce students to clean their areas, but should recommend it.

Tankersley affirmed if any student, staff or faculty is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they should not come to campus. If one tests positive for COVID-19, they should contact the COVID response team at 330-672-2525 to inform them of their condition. If any faculty member is coming from a state with a 15 percent COVID-positive rate or higher, they need to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks before returning to campus and continue any in-person instruction remotely. 

Tankersley noted that testing is now available on campus, both at the Deweese Health Center and at a temporary building structure on campus. Kent State and the city of Kent’s health department will also be conducting contact tracing in all things related to COVID-19. This project will be led by the city of Kent and students — staff and faculty from the College of Public Health will receive training to be contact tracers. 

Grimm said the faculty senate will hold a question-answer session for faculty who are teaching face-to-face on Tuesday, Aug. 18 from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Contact Troy Pierson at [email protected].