Larry Clark: LSUS: Planning for an uncertain future

LSUS Chancellor Larry Clark made an official statement Tuesday afternoon regarding a proposed merger with Louisiana Tech University. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

The year 2020 has brought about changes that no one expected. A deadly virus has burdened our nation with uncertainty and fear for the future. Every family, business and government entity has been forced to adapt their day-to-day practices for greater health and safety for all. 

Louisiana State University Shreveport is no different than any other institution. With growing COVID-19 numbers, the state shutdown loomed large for higher education. How would our students continue their education? How could we as a university adapt and serve our students amidst this crisis? 

For years, we have worked diligently to carve out a strong foothold in the online learning market with a strategic approach to curriculum development, course delivery and student support. These programs are outcome-focused, with the primary goal of preparing our students for the ever-evolving technology-driven workplace. Additionally, LSUS’s online programs are consistently ranked nationally, with our online MBA program being ranked number one by Study.com for 2020. 

Because of this expertise, we were able to quickly pivot in the spring when the shutdown was announced. LSUS already possessed the infrastructure and institutional knowledge for delivering online instruction. Faculty who were adept at teaching online were able to coach those with no prior experience on the platform, allowing our students across campus to still receive instruction. 

To characterize the transition as seamless, however, would be inaccurate. Across the country, COVID-19 has exposed challenges in higher education models, leaving some student populations behind. Despite our best efforts, many LSUS students faced those same challenges. Our faculty and staff are still strategizing and working toward continued improvement in those areas. 

We recognize that we cannot predict what will happen over the coming months, but our goal is to provide the best possible learning opportunities for our students in the safest environment we can provide. We developed a Pandemic Action Team that has worked closely with Ochsner Health System to develop plans based on Governor John Bel Edward’s recommendations, public health directives, and the unique needs of the LSUS family. 

By necessity, our plan is still evolving, but here are a few examples of campus-wide precautions we will be taking in the fall:  

Health and Safety Practices

Wellness checks – We will have drive-by wellness checks for all students, staff, faculty and guests as they come onto campus. An LPN will offer wellness checks in the University Center. 

 Face coverings – All students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus will be required to wear face coverings inside all buildings. 

 Physical distancing – Physical distancing practices will be in place across campus. Campus spaces, including classrooms and common areas, are being reconfigured to implement capacity limits and require at least 6 feet of distance between individuals.

 Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting – Campus protocols for cleaning and disinfecting have been enhanced, especially areas of high touch surfaces and common spaces. 

 Signage – Campus-wide signage is being installed to inform the community of guidelines.

Academic Practices

 Fall semester – The academic calendar for the fall semester remains the same. 

 Classroom configurations – Classroom capacities are being reduced to comply with physical distancing recommendations. Seating will be spaced apart. Plexiglass partitions may be in place at podiums.

 Course delivery – Some classes will be held in person. Others will be delivered remotely. Still others will be a combination of both. 

 Technology – Classrooms are being equipped with new technology to enable flexible course delivery. 

Despite the challenges we are all facing, Louisiana State University Shreveport is committed to putting our students’ safety and education at the forefront of what we do.  We are hopeful that despite the obstacles, LSUS will still be able to provide an award-winning education for students across the country. We cannot predict what will happen next, but our goal is to be prepared to adapt quickly and safely when changes in our city and state occur.

Larry Clark | Chancellor of LSU Shreveport.