After receiving approval from the CSU Chancellor’s Office, Cal Poly announced its plans for Fall quarter on Aug. 12 in a campus-wide email. The university planned to hold about 13 percent of the quarter’s 4,300 sections in-person, and professors have modified their courses to uphold safety guidelines while preserving hands-on learning.
The Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (IME) department plans to hold approximately 10 courses in-person, including a combination of introductory level and upper-division courses.
IME department chair Daniel Waldorf will teach Fundamentals of Manufacturing Engineering (IME 330) in the fall, an upper-division course which will offer an in-person lab. The course teaches students about manufacturing processes such as casting, plastic molding and laser cutting.
Traditionally, students create products using machinery and engineering software during the course’s lab time. However, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have caused Waldorf to redesign the course to comply with health guidelines.
“It’s really caused me and other lab instructors to kind of rethink what actually happens during a three hour lab,” Waldorf said.
The lab’s computer analysis component has been transitioned so that it can be done remotely, cutting the time students spend in the lab environment to an hour in an effort to minimize exposure. Specialty software used by students, which previously was only accessible via on-campus computers, is now available to students on their personal computers and accessed through a login.
“That [software transition] has been a big shift in the past six months at Cal Poly,” Waldorf said.
In addition to sanitizing lab equipment and requiring the use of masks, the lab will be divided into time slots with students taking turns, allowing only one small group in the lab at a time.
“Breaking up the class into sections allows us to take only six students at a time and we can be much more socially distant,” Waldorf said. “They come in and maybe spend only 45 minutes or an hour on the machines, and then the rest of the lab they’re doing on their own.”
In the Horticulture and Crop Science department, only the lab components of courses will be offered in person, nearly all of which will be held outdoors in the agriculture fields where social distancing can be maintained, according to department chair Scott Steinmaus.
The only indoor in-person lab will be Plant Pathology (BOT 323) and precautions such as face shields, open windows and doors and sterilization procedures between classes will be implemented, according to Steinmaus.
“Training will be provided to all students in all labs to prevent [COVID-19] spread. … We are all applied biologists who understand a thing or two about disease and we will err on the side of caution,” Steinmaus wrote in an email to Mustang News.
However, in the weeks leading up to the start of Fall quarter, the specifics of fall courses were still being worked out by many departments.
“Planning for fall quarter is so fluid right now as the college responds to the ever-changing circumstances caused by the coronavirus that faculty aren’t able to comment at the moment,” Communications Specialist for the College of Science and Mathematics Rachel Henry wrote in an email to Mustang News.
Cal Poly previously stated a virtual option will be provided for students who are unable or unwilling to take an in-person course.
However, some students have voiced concerns that offering both an in-person and a virtual version of a course places an unnecessary burden on professors who must adapt to these courses as well as on students who will receive an inconsistent learning experience.
“Forcing professors to adapt these classes for both in-person and online [instruction] will be a burden on them and will almost certainly result in wildly different experiences for the two mediums,” aerospace engineering junior Nick Ogden said.
Instructors are also preparing their in-person courses to switch to a completely virtual format should circumstances change during the quarter.
In that circumstance, IME 330 students would substitute their hands-on lab experience with video demos on their lab topics.
“We’ve got a welding instructor who is outfitting himself with a full body cam and you get to see and do what he’s doing,” Waldorf said. “Instructors are going to a lot of degrees to give a really good experience to the students.”