Colleges go online to prevent spread of COVID-19 – Inside Higher Ed

Eastern Gateway Community College and the University of Dallas are shifting — for various periods of time — to online courses.

Meanwhile, other colleges — Lehigh University and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo — are giving faculty members the right to decide if they will teach their courses in person or online.

Eastern Gateway’s president, Michael Geoghegan, sent a letter to faculty members at the Ohio community college saying, “As we experience a spike in the Delta variant of COVID-19, we are making the difficult decision to take classes back online, except for hands-on courses, and move our workforce back to remote operations. The transition back to online learning will start on Tuesday, September 7, with classes anticipated to return to campus on Monday, October 25. Updated information on our plan to return to campus will be sent no later than Wednesday, October 20.”

All campus events except vaccination clinics were also canceled.

“We understand this is disruptive, and we appreciate your patience and resilience as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Geoghegan wrote. “This was not an easy decision, nor was it taken lightly. We hope that by taking a step back, we protect our students, staff, and faculty and help reduce the current spike in cases of the Delta variant in our communities.”

La Salle University, in Philadelphia, announced that all instruction will be remote this week, given a rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We are experiencing a number of positive cases and presumed-positive cases among our campus community — almost entirely from within our student population,” said a letter to the campus from Tim O’Shaughnessy, the interim president. “These cases are across vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. We have experienced a concentrated increase of positive cases within the last 48 hours and, coupled with the high travel volume of the holiday weekend, immediate action is required in order to maintain the wellness of our students, faculty, and staff.”

He added, “I know you will agree that this is not an ideal start to our semester, and this is a very difficult decision to make. However, we believe this is the appropriate course of action. Your health and safety was the most important factor we considered.”

The University of Dallas announced that a COVID-19 outbreak has prompted a shift to online classes for this week — despite a strong preference at the college for in-person instruction.

“I know this transition to online learning for the next week is not optimal, though it does allow all of our students to continue to progress through our courses together,” wrote Jonathan J. Sanford, the president. “To repeat, the distinctiveness of our undergraduate program is the learning that takes place in person. Wisdom, truth and virtue are goods best pursued in dialogue with one another. Small classes led by our dedicated faculty members reading core texts and wrestling with existential questions — these are the hallmarks of a UD educational experience, and we all desire to return to this as soon as we possibly can.”

Sanford also said that “as of [Sept. 1], 38 students and one employee have tested positive. We have had more positive cases today, and anticipate continued tests this week. Some of those positives were athletes, and as a result, following [National Collegiate Athletic Association] protocols, several NCAA contests that were planned are being rescheduled. I fully anticipate that events that are scheduled for Sept. 13 and beyond will continue as planned. As we track the effectiveness of the pause in containing the high number of cases, we will make a final determination next week with respect to ending the pause as planned.”

The university has about 1,400 undergraduates and about 1,000 graduate students.

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Other colleges are announcing plans to let faculty members decide whether to teach online for some period of time.

Lehigh University in Pennsylvania reported 150 active coronavirus cases among students Thursday and gave instructors of undergraduate and graduate classes the ability to temporarily shift their class to remote or hybrid instruction this week “to accommodate students and minimize disruptions associated with students in isolation and quarantine.”

Lehigh, which mandated COVID-19 vaccination for students and employees, said in a message on its website that “the majority of the cases we are seeing are breakthrough cases, and these cases have not been severe. Vaccination remains highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID.”

St. Lawrence University, in New York, announced that faculty members can convert in-person classes to hybrid or remote classes.

A similar rationale was offered by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, which offered faculty members the right to make courses that were scheduled to be in person hybrid instead, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

By the end of September, the university will evaluate how the hybrid courses are going and also assess health conditions for returning to fully in-person classes.

Morehouse College, in Atlanta, meanwhile, canceled homecoming events scheduled for Oct. 10-17, except for the football game planned for Oct. 16, WSBTV News reported.

— Elizabeth Redden contributed to this article.

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