UF recommends professors move classes online; this left many unanswered questions

Published: Mar. 10, 2020 at 5:36 PM EDT
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The University of Florida is recommending all professors switch their classes to online out of an abundance of caution over coronavirus.

UF Spokesperson Steve Orlando said, "There is a strong possibility or a strong probability that we will go online before the end of the semester, but again, it is a very fluid situation and we have to take it a day at a time."

Orlando said UF has the technological capability to make the transition to online happen.

UF Student Sarah Savage said, "I love going to class because I get to see all of my friends and that's where I get a lot of my social time in class, so that's definitely a concern that I wouldn't get to see my friends as much."

UF Online Director Evangeline Cummings said that should not be a concern.

"Don't think going online: it's going to be easy, or it's going to mean that I am isolated, and I'm alone and I cannot connect with my students or my faculty," she said. "There is nothing farther from the truth; the online environment really enables you to have freedom of movement but be able to connect and be able to deliver on your studies, but still be a University of Florida class.

"There are still going to be high standards for academic performance."

Savage said she is concerned about group assignments.

"On Fridays, we do teamwork, and I don't see how that is going to translate to online," she said.

Orlando responded, "There are still some things that we are trying to work out the logistics of."

"For instance, labs, you know that would be a good example of something that you might need to be there in person," Orlando said. "So, those are discussions that we are having right now on how to work out how that would look."

Cummings added that people may not realize the university already does some physics labs online.

"We have some cool anatomy classes online where you dissect things from your home, so when you think online think connected and think about how the faculty might leverage that connection and might leverage the different locations of the students to really have an amazing learning experience," she said.

So, will students have to return to their hometowns?

"Just to be clear, going online does not mean campus closes," Orlando said. "It is still business as usual: professors are being encouraged, strongly encouraged, required even, to stick to their syllabus."

"So, the only thing that changes is the classes go from being in the classroom to online; everything else stays the same."

This means janitors, food service workers and OPS (Other Personel Services) employees will be able to work as usual.

Savage said, as a student, she trusts her university's decision.

The university is looking at the situation nationally and globally, Orlando said.

"We are also looking at what other universities around the country are doing and I think the last count that some 30 universities nationwide have switched to online courses," he said.

Savage said she prefers to take classes face-to-face so she has the option to ask questions.

"In particular for assessments, we have a lot of online tools that people probably do not know about," Cummings said. "Right now, you can take a test through your computer with different tools that we have, and you do not have to be in a room taking a test with 20, 30, 50 other people."

Savage said, "My first idea was I could work more, which I thought would be helpful."

"A lot of our students have jobs, or they have families or loved ones, Cummings said, "They want to think about how to still get their work done but also deliver on other commitments."

Orlando said, as of now, commencement and future sporting events are still scheduled.

He also said, there are extra precautions being taken in dining halls and classrooms to keep everything clean and disinfected.