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Well over a dozen universities across the United States have now suspended in-person classes amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Most of the universities currently taking this route are located in high-density areas, where the large number of students could increase the spread of the virus. Many universities and colleges are trying to shift to virtual learning.
The University of Dayton is facing a difficult issue in transitioning in-person classes to an online forum. Close to midnight on March 10, a large crowd of students gathered on Lowes Street just hours after the university announced it had decided to move its classes online in lieu of the coronavirus. Students were seen “throwing objects and bottles in the street and at police, and jumping on cars.” The police retaliated by firing pepper balls into the crowd in an effort to break it up.
The effort by institutions to shift all classes to an online forum will prove to be a unique challenge of its own. One example is that a majority (58%) of the student body at Ohio State University have said that they have at least one professor who does not regularly use the university’s online component, Carmen Canvas. And in response, there has been a major effort by the university to get professors trained on Zoom and Canvas as quickly as possible.
According to Michael V. Drake, University President at Ohio State, “Some [classes], like laboratory experiments, can’t be done online, and so there’s a range, and as we look at that range of things that can be done online, we’ll have to make individual decisions with particular classes as to what the right thing to do is."
Students who have traveled internationally (or planned to) for college credits are now having their trips cut short. This has the potential to affect the student’s credits for graduation and raise questions about the fees that students have had to pay in order to take these trips abroad.
The art department at Montana State University reveals that “the students in [the] study abroad program paid a $7,000 travel fee, in addition to tuition and other fees, that covered lodging, ground transportation, admission to museums and some meals for the duration of the trip, excluding a 9-day spring break.”
Major universities, such as Harvard, have given students a deadline to move out of their on-campus housing.
This has put a number of students in a bind who live in a home with family members who may be put at high risk if they were to contract the virus. Many of these students don’t have anywhere else to go.
The coronavirus has presented a whole new set of challenges for universities and communities as a whole. It is unclear how online classes could affect the experience of students and professors, but it goes without saying that these institutions are not equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.
Perhaps as the students head home, they will use this as an opportunity to create new, local networks in their own areas, and to work and learn within their communities. Without an educational infrastructure, students will have to make their own structure. Though many may feel that they are unprepared for this eventuality, the time to take personal responsibility for one's life, livelihood, and social contribution is now.