FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Preparing for the fall semester is in full swing at Fresno State, with classes set to start on Aug. 19.

The university used the summer to plan for what will be a different educational experience for students.

“The thing I was looking forward to most was interacting with other students on campus and just having that college experience,” said incoming Fresno State freshman Ashley Ledbetter.

Fresno State President Joesph Castro understands how she feels.

“I applaud their resilience, especially during this challenging time. I’m excited that they have chosen Fresno State, I think that says a lot about their personal character that they are going to continue on with their higher education and we have a great year planned.”

But Ashley’s first year in college will be different. There will be no crowds of students gathering in the quad, no crowds of students on campus, and classrooms will be empty.

“It’s a bit of a disappointment, but I think I will still have fun in college even with this change.”

The California State University system decided early on that it would open in the fall as a predominately online education system. Castro says making that decision back in may gave Fresno State time to make it’s virtual program better.

“We’ve been working on those plans all summer and we’ve actually done a professional development program for over 900 of our faculty to help them get ready to teach online,” said Castro.

Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence, Dr. Bryan Berrett, says having instructors train virtually helps them see online learning from a different perspective.

“It’s very critical to be kind, to be compassionate, and put yourself in the shoes of the learner, so understanding what online learning is from the student perspective is critical,” said Dr. Bryan Berrett.

About 7% of courses will be held on campus. Most of them laboratories. Castro says for those in-person courses it’s all about safety for staff and students.

“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to serve them during this time and we know it’s a challenging time but we are going to do everything we can to support them.”

The traditional Dog Days orientation for new students is currently underway at Fresno state – in a virtual format.