A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities are switching to online rather than in-person courses in response to the spread of coronavirus across the United States. As of Monday afternoon, at least a dozen institutions of higher learning have either canceled in-person courses entirely or shifted the majority of their operations online.
The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to more than 550 Sunday, including 22 deaths, but the true scale remains unknown largely because the Trump administration continues to downplay its impact.
Regardless, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued guidance to colleges and universities on how to cope with campus closures, class cancellations and the transition to courses offered online.
Below is a list of several colleges and universities that have elected to go online amid fears about the coronavirus. (This list is not comprehensive. The number of schools going online is growing rapidly as the coronavirus spreads across the country, and students and parents should check with their schools for updates.)
On March 9, Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, announced it will transition to online courses when spring break ends on March 23 out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus. Amherst President Biddy Martin said in a statement that classes would be canceled March 12 and March 13 to allow faculty and staff time to develop “alternate modes of delivering courses.”
On March 12, Auburn University in Alabama announced it will transition to online courses until at least April 10 out of concern for the spread of coronavirus.
After April 10, Auburn officials will consult public health officials to determine whether to resume in-person courses.
“University officials will subsequently determine if students will return to campus for the remaining weeks of the spring semester,” Auburn said in a statement.
On March 11, Bowdoin College in Maine announced it will transition to online courses for students when classes resume March 25. “Our top priority is to protect those on our campus who are most at risk from COVID-19,” Bowdoin College said. “If the crisis resolves itself in the near term, we will reevaluate whether students might return to campus.
On March 6, Brandman University, a private college based in California and Washington, announced the school will suspend the majority of its on-campus courses. About 85% of Brandman’s courses are taken online, according to the university.
“University leaders developing Brandman’s response to this public health crisis anticipate the switch to entirely online course delivery can be achieved with minimal or no disruptions to students’ academic progress,” the university said in a statement.
Columbia University, based in New York City, suspended class on March 9 and March 10 to prepare the university for a week of exclusively online courses.
“This suspension of activities will allow us to prepare to shift to remote classes for the remainder of the week,” Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger said in a statement. There have been more than 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York to date and at least 20 confirmed cases in New York City specifically.
CUNY and SUNY
On March 12, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced via tweet the City University of New York and the State University of New York will transition to remote learning for the rest of the semester beginning March 19. Suspending in-person courses will allow the universities and their surrounding areas to “reduce density and reduce the spread” of coronavirus, Cuomo said.
On March 10, Duke University in North Carolina announced that it will suspend in-person classes beginning March 23 and transition to online courses instead. To prepare for the change, the university said it will need to extend students’ spring break an extra week, until March 22.
On March 10, Emerson College announced it will suspend in-person classes and transition to online courses instead. Emerson College President Lee Pelton said in a statement that the decision was made “in the interest of safeguarding the health and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff as well as members of the greater community, who may be more vulnerable to this disease.”
On March 10, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced in an email to students that it will move to remote instruction beginning March 23 out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus. The university is reportedly also asking students not to return to campus when spring break ends on March 22.
Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., announced on March 11 it will transition its courses online beginning March 16 and suspend in-person classes until further notice out of concern for the spread of coronavirus.
On March 8, Hofstra University, located on Long Island in New York, announced it would cancel in-person classes following a student’s reported symptoms of coronavirus after attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland.
The American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, announced one of its attendees tested positive for coronavirus. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) recently entered self-quarantine after discovering they had interacted with the infected individual at last month’s conference.
On March 10, Middlebury College in Vermont announced it will dismiss students for spring break on March 13, one week earlier than scheduled. Students returning for the rest of the semester will begin taking courses remotely on March 30. University President Laurie Patton said the school has an obligation to provide quality education and a safe, healthy environment.
“The rapidly developing circumstances of the novel coronavirus now require extraordinary changes to our usual practices to fulfill those obligations,” Patton said.
New York University
On March 9, New York University announced it will transition almost exclusively to remote learning when classes begin on March 23 out of concern for the spread of coronavirus.
On March 9, Princeton University in New Jersey announced it will offer its courses exclusively online when students return from spring break on March 23.
The transition will include “a mandatory, temporary move for all lectures, seminars, and precepts to virtual instruction starting on Monday, March 23,” the university said in a statement.
Rice University in Texas announced on March 8 all of its classes for the week of March 9 will be canceled as the university prepares to possibly offer all of its courses exclusively online.
One employee at the university was confirmed to have contracted the virus, and Rice has since closed the hall where that employee worked until further notice.
On March 9, Seattle University in Washington announced it will suspend all in-person classes and offer its courses online from March 9 until March 20. Despite the discovery of several coronavirus infections in Washington, Seattle University said there have been no confirmed cases in their “campus community.”
In a statement, the university said it is taking these steps “out of an abundance of caution and to support public health efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the region, including social distancing.”
On March 10, Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, announced it will offer in-person classes through March 13, but all courses will be delivered through “alternate modes” beginning March 30. Smith College President Kathleen McCartney said the decision to suspend in-person classes was made “to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us — those students, staff and faculty on the CDC’s list of those who are at a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19.”
St. Francis College
On March 12, St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, announced it will transition its courses online beginning March 18 until further notice. St. Francis college President Miguel Martinez-Saenz said in an announcement via email the school hopes to resume face-to-face classes on April 6, but they will assess the situation at that time and “proceed prudently.”
On March 9, Stanford University announced it will suspend all in-person courses for the remainder of the winter semester, effective immediately. In a statement, university Provost Persis Drell said California public health officials recommended encouraging good personal hygiene “but also minimizing close contact among groups of people.”
On March 10, Tufts University in Massachusetts announced it will move to online courses starting March 25 out of concern for the spread of the coronavirus. In an email to students, university President Anthony Monaco reportedly told students they must leave their residence halls for spring break by March 16 and should plan to take classes remotely when they return for the following semester.
University of California, Berkeley
Officials from the University of California, Berkeley, told students Monday that they were suspending nearly all in-person classes until after spring break ends later this month.
“There are no confirmed cases on our campus at this time; however, as local, national, and global public health recommendations shift to include mitigation of transmission, the campus is proactively taking steps that will help to protect the community,” Chancellor Carol Christ wrote in an email to students.
Most classes will be conducted online. Those that require in-person instruction ― arts, physical education or lab sciences ― will continue to meet in person when necessary.
University of Pennsylvania
On March 11, the University of Pennsylvania announced it will transition to remote learning when classes begin after spring break, on March 23.
“The COVID-19 virus is readily spread through close human contact, which is a fact of life in a university environment, whether in classrooms, dining halls or at University events,” university officials said in a statement.
“Eliminating large gatherings and creating social distancing are important steps to help prevent the spread of the disease.”
University of Washington
On March 6, University of Washington announced it will also suspend in-person instruction for the remainder of the semester, effective immediately.
“These actions are being taken in response to recommendations from public health agencies to avoid bringing large groups of people together in close proximity for events and gatherings,” university officials said in a statement.
Are you aware of other school closures or in-person course suspensions in your area? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lydia O’Connor contributed to this report.