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US colleges cope with coronavirus pandemic

In order to prevent the transmission of coronavirus, US colleges moved classes online after the emergency measures were announced. Starting with the University of Washington, which closed its campus on March 7, most colleges decided to cancel in-person classes, and students hurriedly cleared out their dorms in response to the evacuation. Given short notice, students scrambled to return home, and international students especially struggled to make a decision between staying in temporary campus housing and going back to their home countries. This unprecedented evacuation and implementation of online classes led to many other questions for parents, teachers, and students, and they hope further notices will be made to address these issues. 

“This will be particularly hard for senior students,” said Kate Hyun(10), who has been following the news. “Given such short notice, they did not get to experience a proper transfer from college with their friends and teachers. It is even more unfortunate since they are missing out on graduation ceremonies and farewell parties. With the online classes, they do not get to enjoy the last minutes in school and create memories.”

One of the main concerns that are rising is the adoption of online classes. Not only does a school need to inform and train the faculty about the online tools, but teachers have to create new class procedures and rules accordingly. People are also waiting for colleges to develop new measures to deal with students who are under different circumstances; some do not have access to online resources, and some cannot leave the campus. With travel bans and advisories, international students are also facing difficulties moving home, and questions remain about how they will work through the virtual classes that might continue until summer.

“These are abrupt changes, and for many students, the changes and adjustments will be challenging,” said Jessica Terbrueggen, English teacher. “Adjusting to e-learning is not easy since it is not the same environment as learning face-to-face. However, I think US universities and colleges are well-resourced to provide excellent online services to their communities. It will be a steep learning curve for educators as well as students, but universities and educators are dedicated to seeing students through these difficult times. I know everyone will be working hard to ensure students receive the best education they can given the unprecedented circumstances.”

With the sudden evacuation, parents also had many questions regarding the remaining semester and the school systems. Most issues, such as refunds and financial assistance, seem to depend on individual schools, but many colleges seem to agree on some parts like canceling or postponing campus tours and admitted school weekends. In terms of grading, some universities are still offering letter grades, but others are adopting an optional or a mandatory pass-fail grading system. 

“Many students started to voice out their opinions about alternative grading,” said Pablo Lee (10), who has been reading articles regarding US colleges grading options. “I read about the support for pass-fail grading in many schools and also about a movement called “No Fail Yale” that is advocating for a universal pass grading system. I think this is a difficult problem for colleges to resolve since they would want to keep their instructions for academics the same but at the same time, address students’ concerns.”

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