Academic Dean's message to MSU-WP Students (March 27)

The following message was sent on March 27, 2020.

Dear Missouri State University-West Plains students:

After a tumultuous set of days that is now stretching into weeks, let me extend my sincerest hope that each of you and your families are safe and sound. I know many of you have had your lives turned upside down during this COVID-19 outbreak. Here on the Missouri State-West Plains campus, we will be under a “stay-at-home” order as of midnight tonight (Friday, March 27), issued under the emergency authority of the Mayor/City Council of the City of West Plains and by the Howell County Commission. While we are working to protect our faculty and staff under this directive, we are also working to ensure that you can successfully begin the second half of the spring semester and then complete it with as little disruption as possible. The remainder of this letter is focused on providing you with the information and ways of accessing additional information to do just that. 

Please know that, whether you are “stay-at-home” right now, out of work, frustrated or anxious, we at Missouri State-West Plains are keenly aware things are different for you as you face the immediate future. 

As you know, a part of that future must be the rest of your Spring 2020 semester, successfully completing what you have invested time, energy and money in since January. Our intention during the past couple of weeks has been to step back from the semester as students take care of themselves and their families before having to take care of their coursework. That’s why we extended Spring Break before heading into the rest of the semester using ONLY remotely-delivered courses, which will resume Monday, March 30. 

When you return to your coursework next week – or even before next week – it is imperative that you do the following to better ensure your success in each of your courses. We highly encourage you to take each of the following actions:

  • First, log-in to your respective Blackboard courses where most of your instructors will have posted instructions about how they will be proceeding with the course.
  • Await your instructors’ direction concerning assignments scheduled as being due during the coming week or weeks. Many instructors, I know, have already been doing this or will be doing this via the MSU email system. If you do not receive their instructions, do not hesitate to contact each of them in the most direct manner you have available. With the end of the semester before you, it is important that you know exactly what your instructor will be expecting from you in order to complete the semester. Each class will be different, so contacting each of your instructors is critical. If you are repeatedly unable to contact your instructor, then please contact the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs at 417-255-7272
  • If at all possible, “attend” each and every scheduled class during the next couple of weeks. How you do that will vary with each instructor. If you’re not used to taking an online course, then you need to discuss that with your instructor upfront, so she or he will be aware of that and can, to the best of her or his ability, assist you in making this transition. With such a disruption as this and with the end of the semester on it way, THE best way of finding out exactly your situation in a course and moving on to a successful completion of that course is to be fully engaged with your assignments, as deeply attentive to any and all information resources delivered in the course, and be as conversive with your instructors as possible over the course of the next seven weeks.
  • For some students greatly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences, please visit with your instructors about the possibility of receiving an Incomplete Grade for the semester. NOTE: Right now, it is perhaps way too early to consider this option; however, I want you to know that we are prepared to provide this to you if your circumstances – including internet accessibility issues – should duly warrant such an option. This is only an option, and it is the instructor’s right to decide whether to issue the incomplete; the better step is to commit to completing your course(s) now rather than later. 

We understand, however, that some of you may be affected directly by the virus, have loved ones affected, and/or, given that courses will be delivered only by remote means, you will not be able to access your course material in a way that allows you to complete your semester at a level commensurate with your capabilities. That’s where requesting an Incomplete Grade for the semester is a good option. Again, it is much too early to seek this option. But, as the semester progresses, you and your instructor should discuss your particular situation and whether the incomplete grade would benefit you. Note: When it does come time, you MUST REQUEST this option from your instructor before the end of the semester; it is not automatic. Your instructor will provide details about what you must do during the extended time period (you will have, if needed, until the end of the Fall 2020 semester) to complete the course. The Incomplete Grade policy from the Course Catalog is attached. 

  • Utilize our online resources. Tips for Taking Online Courses is on the Missouri State-West Plains website.  And a good list of student resources can also be found on the Missouri State-Springfield website. Many of your questions may be answered in our FAQs, and you can find information about services on the Campus Operations webpage, all found at the MSU-West Plains website.
  • Think through your options for getting online. We know that many of you do not have the greatest of means to access the internet, whether for email, Blackboard, or other delivery methods, so . . . AT THIS TIME (please note this can change at any time)  . . . Even though the campus is under a “stay-at-home” order, the order does allow us to keep Lybyer Technology Center open for you to use its central computer lab. The order permits us to do this for the benefit of our students, but it has to be done under certain conditions. At this time, Lybyer will be open Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm, and on Sunday from 1 to 7 pm. (Garnett Library will NOT be open at anytime during the week.) We will be strictly following social distancing guidelines and health procedures to better protect you from the virus. IF THE SITUATION CHANGES where we cannot keep Lybyer open, then we will let you know via the campus’ ongoing announcements. 
  • On the Mountain Grove campus, Shannon Hall and its computer lab will be open Monday-Thursday from Noon to 6 pm, and then on Friday, Noon to 4 pm. Like at Lybyer, this will be for current students and staff/faculty ONLY.
  • In addition, should you need campus accessibility but you don’t want to come into the building, consider parking your vehicle in one of the campus parking lots and accessing the MSU-WP WIFI from your vehicle. Here’s a list of parking lots and open areas with good reception: 
    • North Lybyer parking lot
    • Southeast part of Looney parking lot
    • Rec Center outside the basketball court area
    • Grassy area near the bear statue

Again, we will be following all governmental and health agency guidelines throughout this period, so students/faculty/staff MUST not gather in numbers beyond the prescribed number at any given time, including parking lots and computer labs. Above all, be safe, for the sake of yourself, your fellow students, the campus community, your family, and your communities. 

  • Again, because of the “stay-at-home” order, all our offices will be closed with our staff members working from home to assist you as best as they can through electronic communication. 
  • Finally, if you don’t know what else to do for whatever reason, call our main number during this time at 417-255-7255, and then ask for the “GrizCARE” HELP Desk. We’ll do our best to get you an answer or connect you with someone who can assist you. We want to help, because you and your college success are what’s most on our minds right now. 

On behalf of Chancellor Lawler and the faculty and staff of Missouri State University-West Plains, we hope you and your family are safe and sound and that life will soon settle down for you and for all of us. Again, if you have any issues regarding your courses or your ability to complete your courses, contact your instructors immediately. If you have academic needs beyond your instructor, please contact my office, the Office of the Dean of Academic Affairs, at 417-255-7272.  And, if you desire to visit with a personal counselor as you deal with the stress and anxiety during this period, for any immediate counseling intervention, students can text HOME to 741741 and be connected with a crisis counselor by text. 

Our faculty and staff are excited to engage with you again online, by phone and by email. See you ONLINE next week and best wishes!

Dr. Dennis L. Lancaster
Dean of Academic Affairs