Coronavirus forces colleges to plan for online learning

Some study abroad programs have already shifted classes online
By: | March 4, 2020
Drexel and Syracuse universities are among schools preparing to move instruction online should coronavrius and COVID-19 illnesses force campuses to close.Drexel and Syracuse universities are among schools preparing to move instruction online should coronavrius and COVID-19 illnesses force campuses to close.

Colleges and universities could move instruction online should coronavirus and COVID-19 illnesses force campuses to close.

Drexel University President John Fry told the Philadelphia campus this week that “the Provost’s Office is working with deans, faculty and Drexel IT to assess the feasibility of moving undergraduate and graduate courses online, if necessary.”

Fry also said that the university had, out of an abundance of caution, quarantined a small number of students in empty residence hall rooms. Drexel has the infrastructure to fully care for these students, and scale-up these programs if needed, Fry said.

In New York, Syracuse University is also preparing to shift to online learning should the campus have to shut down.


More from UB: Coronavirus threat means quarantine for study abroad students


Syracuse’s Center for Online and Digital Learning is working with the campus’ schools, colleges and Information Technology Services to help faculty shift to distance learning, Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement on the university’s website.

“While at this time we do not have any indications that such a response will be required,” Syverud said, “it’s my strong belief that we are obligated to take action now to ensure our students are afforded every opportunity to complete their spring semester academic coursework should public health concerns preclude normal operations.”

California State University and California Community Colleges system may repurpose online learning systems to keep lessons going in the event of campus closures, CALmatters reported.

“They’re taking precautions and staying vigilant—no one’s panicking or anything like that,” Paul Feist, a spokesman for California Community Colleges, told CALmatters. “The threat, as it is right now, is low, but we need to prepare in the event that that changes.”

Temple University’s Japan campus has already moved its 350 classes online, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.


More from UB: Coronavirus concerns cancel study abroad programs


Back in Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, the University of the Sciences and Chestnut Hill College are exploring how to move instruction online, according to the Inquirer.

“We are conducting some advanced training in online learning applications for faculty over spring break,” St. Joseph’s spokesperson Gail Benner told the Inquirer. 

Other schools have already moved to online learning for students whose study abroad trips were canceled.

Twenty-two University of Delaware students who had been taking classes at a university in Rome will complete the semester online from their homes, The News Journal reported.