In-person classes and labs have begun

Yang Chen, News Editor

Pitt-Johnstown started in-person classes and labs this week.

Academic Affairs Vice President Janet Grady said, “In general, instruction, including labs, is accomplished in accordance with the Flex and Pitt model and the University of Pittsburgh CoVID-19 Standards and Guidelines for Instruction. These guidelines set forth the safety protocols for in-person classroom and lab experiences.

“This semester, some labs in various academic divisions may be in person, and others may be held remotely. Those that are in-person will comply with all CoVID-19 Standards and Guidelines.

“Most of us prefer in-person classes and labs, and we are hopeful for the day when that will be the norm again on college campuses.

“However, for the time being, many Pitt Johnstown instructors have worked hard to design lab activities that are effective learning experiences even when done remotely,” Grady said.

Natural Science division chair Steven Stern said, “Our lab capacities have been determined by an outside contractor and set aside ample room for each student. Masks are required as they are for all activities on campus. Social distancing when engaged in lab activities is mandated.

“Faculty are not permitted to punish students in any way, shape, or form for choosing to learn from home during the COVID crisis. In the Natural Sciences Division, this is taken with complete seriousness, and I’ve had no reports from students concerning faculty who have been disagreeable about this.

“Although no one at a school like ours would tell you than taking a lab online is optimal, all of our faculty who teach labs have taken the challenge to heart and are doing their best to keep up their instruction. I’m really impressed with their efforts.

“If we all work together, we can educate and become educated. This semester, I am pleased to see more of my students showing their faces during my Zoom classes and participating more actively.

“I am taking my student comments on the OMET evaluations from last semester seriously and doing my best to engage my students in the material.

“The silver lining to COVID and university education is that faculty are learning different ways of engaging students and using technology to their full advantage. Many valuable lessons just might stick with us when most students and faculty return to the classroom in the near future,” Stern said.

Engineering division chair Jerry Samples said, “We are following the University of Pittsburgh COVID-19 Standards and Guidelines. We have an Activity Area Plan that discusses the rules we will follow. All of the labs have been measured and class sizes reduced. Everyone wears a mask and equipment is cleaned after use by each group.

“Some of the students will be attending the lab remotely. Most of the instructors have devised plans to handle these situations. In some cases all the labs are remote, so everyone is doing the same work.

“In some cases, the labs have some remote and some in person. Instructors have devised a plan whereby those that are remote have different tasks – at the same level – than those who attend. We do not punish students for exercising their option to stay home.

“This is all very challenging for all of us, students and faculty alike. We want to ensure that students get the same quality education that they get when attending in person.

“That requires work by faculty and students. If either does not execute their responsibilities, then things are missed. We are trying to eliminate any negative impacts on learning,” Samples said.