Ga. universities preparing online coursework if coronavirus spreads

Several Georgia colleges and universities are making preparations, such as offering online classes, if campuses must close for any period of time because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Georgia State University, which has the largest enrollment of any school in the state, sent a message Wednesday to faculty with instructions about how to teach online and to test the plans in the next week. The instructions include information about recording a lecture and posting it online and grading coursework. Georgia State has nearly 54,000 students.

“Hopefully, it’s not necessary, but if it is, we will have the foundation in place to continue courses,” Georgia State Provost Wendy Hensel said in a telephone interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.

Georgia State would take such action if determined necessary by public health officials, Hensel said.

Kennesaw State University, which has about 38,000 students, Georgia’s third-largest enrollment, is providing ongoing guidance to faculty and others to ensure instruction continues in case of a disruption, spokeswoman Tammy DeMel said.

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The AJC reported Monday that Georgia schools have asked students to self-quarantine who have been in countries where the outbreak has been the greatest. Morehouse College on Thursday advised students traveling overseas next week for Spring Break to avoid what federal officials consider high-risk areas. Georgia Tech told the AJC on Friday it has cancelled all school-sponsored international travel and study abroad for the spring semester.

Some students have contacted faculty and administrators with questions about potential plans if the outbreak grows in Georgia. Several colleges and universities in states like California with large numbers of people diagnosed with the virus have cancelled classes. Others are discussing plans such as creating housing for students who might need to be in isolation, according to media reports. Spelman College, which has about 2,200 students, wrote in a message students, faculty and staff on Thursday it “strongly encourages that we all restrict greetings to respectful nods and smiles, or elbow bumps to replace handshakes and hugs.”

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John Frazier, a Georgia State instructor in the school of Film, Media and Theatre, posted an announcement Tuesday that he was canceling classes that day until he had “received a clear protocol for dealing with COVID 19 (Coronavirus),” the Georgia State Signal, the university’s student newspaper, reported Wednesday. Frazier told the newspaper his message was “incorrect.” Faculty cannot cancel classes without discussions with administrators, Hensel said, who called Frazier’s actions an “overreaction.”

“I appreciate that this is a time of uncertainty, but that in fact is not how we operate,” Hensel told the AJC.