The University of Washington President, Ana Mari Cauce, announced today that all in-person courses at all University of Washington campuses will be suspended as of Monday, March 9 for the remainder of the quarter and until the beginning of Spring Quarter on March 30. Similarly, the President of Seattle University Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. also suspended in-person classes until the end of the winter quarter, moving all courses to online formats. 

For the time being, while residence halls and dining services remain open for on-campus residents at both University of Washington and Seattle University, students and faculty in the span of three days will need to radically shift how they learn. Guidance from university officials is being updated regularly. 

The unique challenges for college and university educators in protecting students as well as providing continuous education are further complicated by the structure and movement of students and faculty throughout a modern college campus as well as their migration abroad: 

We [colleges] often house large numbers of students together and feed them in communal dining halls. Our classes, athletic events and other activities are large public gatherings. And, as we enter March, many colleges will enjoy spring break, with associated travel offering the opportunity of contact with a wide population, often including international travel by students and faculty, and a return to campus.

Inside Higher Ed, February 27, 2020

As we posted a week ago, since late January, university officials have been sending weekly email alerts to their students and faculty about COVID-19, including lists of resources for students to access counseling services to deal with their concerns as well as academic advisors plan for continuity of their education.

Some campuses, like UC San Diego, are issuing directives to faculty about how to transition their classes to online formats, both as the current quarter ends and in preparation for the new quarter yet to start. See link for more UC San Diego’s Chancellor Pradeep Khosla’s announcement. 

A former CMC client, now Georgetown University freshman, also shared that professors have recently been announcing that students should be prepared for all online coursework after returning from next week’s Spring Break, although Georgetown University administrators have made no formal directives to students. 

Additionally, Professor Jonathan Shewchuk of UC Berkeley posted an email to the subreddit r/China_Flu, where he offered guidance for his students to prepare for closures, taking precautions to protect themselves from the spread of the virus, as well as critiques of the university administration of weak points in their contingency plans. 

College administrators have also begun cancelling study abroad programs, and have restricted the non-essential travel of scholars and students, as we posted here. 

Additionally, on March 1, 2020, the CDC issued unprecedented guidance for university officials and other international educators to consider:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that colleges should “consider” canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs and asking current program participants to return to their home countries in light of the global outbreak of a new coronavirus.

Inside Higher Ed, March 2, 2020

While the guidance is not a directive, 

“It’s a major change in policy, and it will be taken very seriously by our members,” Brad Farnsworth, vice president for global engagement at the American Council on Education, said of the CDC guidance.

Inside Higher Ed, March 2, 2020

As college administrators are dealing with multiple complex issues in safeguarding their students, faculty and staff abroad and on their home campuses, students can ask more questions and contact advisors. Then, families can plan for a potential campus closure, dismissal of students for a duration of time, or if universities lock campuses, restricting the movement of students to campus only.

Some suggested questions to consider: what are the contingencies to continue dining services and maintaining residence halls for entire communities of on-campus student residents, if campuses are locked? How will students’ health be safeguarded and health services be provided in case they cannot travel home? 

In the case of university campus closures, what resources are available for the unexpected expense of travel home in the middle of the term, as well as what are the tuition and housing refund policies for the truncated semester?  Also, what are the contingencies for graduating students, a half term away from finishing college degrees? 

Additionally, what are the alternatives for finishing or taking classes which cannot be taught in remote or online learning formats, like a Biochemistry lab based course? And, what are the recourse for students in the last semester or quarter from graduation, if campuses are closed or even if classes are suspended temporarily? 

As university and college officials respond in realtime to a dynamically evolving, fluid public health challenge, college students can coordinate with their parents to understand how COVID-19 is affecting their education, then plan accordingly. Ask questions, monitor the news flow and understand their college administrator’s decision-making processes to help protect the well-being of faculty, staff and students as well as continue the educational process during these extraordinary times. 

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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