Colleges Gear Up for an Uncertain Fall Semester Online
Many schools are preparing for some form of virtual instruction in the autumn
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) descended on college campuses last spring, Carl Zarate joined the thousands of students whose worlds shrunk abruptly from expansive lecture halls to Zoom screens. The Cal State Fullerton junior recalls taking a difficult organic chemistry exam in his bedroom at home, racing to figure out an unfamiliar online testing platform, using the Wi-Fi that he shares with his parents, grandparents and younger sister. Zarate suspects that his professor, also a stranger to the screens that supplanted the classroom, made the test needlessly complex for fear of students cheating. “It just wasn’t ideal,” he said.
Colleges and universities across the country made the hasty transition to distance learning this spring. And as the fall approaches, with COVID-19 cases spiking in some areas and no certainty of a vaccine on the horizon, schools must confront the question of how to resume classes safely. Since physical distancing guidelines limit the number of students that can occupy one classroom, the question for many colleges and universities across the country isn’t whether to implement some form of online learning, but how.
In April, Cal State Fullerton became one of the first campuses in the country to announce plans to offer the majority of classes online in the fall. The rest of the schools in the California State University system, whose 23 campuses serve nearly 500,000 students, soon followed suit. Zarate, a premed student, says he understands the precautions his school is taking for his upcoming senior year, but he still worries about his grades and whether he’ll be able to learn online material effectively.
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