There Are More Questions Than Answers As CU Moves Classes Online Amid Coronavirus Spread

Coronavirus CU Boulder Cancels In-Person Classes
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Signs advising CU Boulder students at the University Memorial Center Wednesday March 11 2020 to wash their hands in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. CU Boulder has cancelled all in-person classes starting Monday, March 16.

Hours after the University of Colorado announced plans on Wednesday to move classes online, many to likely stay that way through the end of the semester, there was a swirl of questions from both students and faculty.

“I’m a little confused about everything, and a little scared also,” said Zoe Corbus, a sophomore physiology major at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Like many students on campus, Corbus has labs associated with some of her classes. On Wednesday it was unclear how the university would move what’s typically the most hands-on component of classes, the lab, to an online forum.

CU Boulder has asked instructors and professors to move courses online March 16 for the remainder of the semester. The University of Colorado Denver will begin its online instruction for the remainder of the semester March 30. Meantime, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs will switch to online courses March 30 for just two weeks.

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Dan Jones, the associate vice chancellor for integrity, safety and compliance at CU Boulder, stressed at a press conference that no cases of COVID-19 have been detected on campus, or in Boulder County. However, the university is still taking a number of steps to slow the spread.

Beyond transitioning to remote classes, those include:

  • Travel abroad programs to some countries such as Italy, China and South Korea have been suspended, affecting about 500 students.
  • All international and domestic travel has been suspended for faculty and staff, although they can apply for exemptions.
  • Multiday gatherings, or events with more than 150 attendees, have been called off. Organizers can apply for exemptions.
  • The Conference on World Affairs is canceled in April. 

In the hours after the announcement, it was unclear what steps the CU Boulder officials will take to accommodate students who don’t own laptops or have internet connections. The one thing that was evident was that the biggest burden in the near term will fall on the shoulders of instructors and professors.

Most university classes take weeks for instructors to prepare. CU Boulder officials said they expect teacher assistants who provide support for classes to continue their work as classes move online. 

Coronavirus CU Boulder Cancels In-Person Classes
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
CU Boulder senior Nico Wallace works at the UMC Bike Station Wednesday March 11 2020. The university has cancelled all in-person classes starting Monday, March 16. Student jobs such as Zach’s could be in jeopardy as large numbers of students leave campus.

CU anthropology professor Oliver Paine said it will be a big project to move a class online. It’s an especially tall order for him because he’s never taught a class online before.

“That’s the learning curve I’m about to take on. I’m going to reach out to people who have done online courses before," Paine said. "The school’s given us a little bit of a buffer to figure this out. But theoretically, it has to be ready to go on Monday."

CU Boulder plans to host an online town hall for students, faculty and staff Friday. The university has also set up a hotline to answer questions: 303-492-4636 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

More information about the university’s response can be found here