Texas A&M University, Blinn College District and Sam Houston State University canceled classes through March 20 on Thursday in response to the COVID-19 virus.
According to the A&M announcement, everything will be done completely online when students resume classes March 23. Blinn said most courses will be online, but hands-on, skills-based classes such as labs, clinicals and external internships will continue in their current formats. Both schools said the week of canceled classes will allow leaders to plan for the upcoming changes. A&M and Blinn will keep their campus resources, such as dining halls and dorms, open.
According to an update posted to its website around 7 p.m. Thursday, Sam Houston State will move courses online for the remainder of the spring semester once classes resume. Residence halls will remain open, as will campus services such as dining halls, the library and computer labs. Events on campus for more than 250 people will be canceled through March 23.
Texas A&M biomedical sciences junior Emma Townsend said she wants to move back to her hometown, Houston, now that classes are online. However, she has a job at the student recreation center on campus, which she said might keep her in town longer. Townsend said she is glad that classes are moving online because to her it shows that administration is concerned for faculty and students.
“I am very happy with the idea of online classes, as it gives me more flexibility, but I do worry it may not be as easy to comprehend the information in the class depending on how that online format is,” Townsend said. “That is my only worry, but I do have many sources to contact to help with that. My other concern is for exams, just because if they are online, how will it be ensured that everyone is being truthful and not cheating to allow a fair grading curve to be given?”
A&M classes will be online until the last day of the semester on April 28. The university will be open for faculty, staff and students. In the coming weeks, the university will announce plans for final exams and commencement ceremonies.
The announcement states that undergraduate students are not required to be physically on campus, but graduate students, professional students and students conducting clinical activities or student teaching will need to contact their respective program leaders for guidance.
Transportation will remain on a break schedule. From March 13 to April 3, campus community meetings and events can only have 50 or fewer participants. Other than campus community members such as RELLIS or agencies, the A&M announcement said no participants from off campus should be at in-person meetings on campus.
Undergraduate and graduate on-campus recruiting and campus tours will not take place through April 3.
Texas A&M general studies junior Nathan Link also takes courses at Blinn. Link said he thinks the decision was somewhat of an overreaction but also said he understands that it could be the safest move when considering older faculty and staff on campus who are more likely to be affected by the virus.
“From what I’ve seen on Twitter, there is a variety of opinions,” Link said. “It seems like a lot of people are happy that classes are online, but people with more difficult classes that will struggle to format them online, they are not very happy, as well as others who really enjoy College Station. Those Aggies who love A&M and College Station are upset now because they see no point to stay anymore.”
Blinn’s absence policy is temporarily suspended. Bryan Collegiate High School and off-campus dual credit courses will continue as scheduled. Blinn is also conducting a deep clean of all campuses, according to a statement, and when students return, there will be “frequent deep cleans” across the schools.
Large public events through Blinn including the Performing Arts Series concert on March 17, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new science, technology, engineering, and innovation building on March 20 and College-sanctioned events at the Dr. W.W. O’Donnell Performing Arts Center were canceled.
Prospective student campus tours at Blinn will continue, but there will be smaller Preview Day events.
The Thursday announcement was reassuring to Blinn-Bryan construction science sophomore Philip Haas.
“It made me feel better because it made me feel secure that Blinn is monitoring what’s going on with the coronavirus,” Haas said. “It shows that they are trying to take things seriously and go through safe precautions with everything.”
Before Thursday’s announcement, A&M professors were discussing how to move courses online. On Tuesday — when the university was initially giving professors an option rather than mandating online courses — faculty received an email with guidance on how to make the transition.
In the email, instructors were directed to keepteaching.tamu.edu, which gives instruction on how to run an online class. The message also said for instructors to be mindful of students in need of disability accommodations, and reminded them of tools such as e-campus, ZOOM, Google Classroom, Google Apps and email.
Assistant professor of economics Fernando Luco decided to move online before A&M’s mandate. He said he’s confident in making the technological side of the course run smoothly, but thinks it may be difficult for students to remain as engaged as usual when they are watching lectures remotely.
Moving classes online is an important part of controlling the spread of coronavirus said Angelique Gammon, instructional assistant professor of journalism in the department of communication. In an interview before the A&M mandate, Gammon said she was planning to move courses online, and working with students who may not have laptops or reliable Wi-Fi.
Instructional assistant professor of political science Brittany Perry decided to teach online before A&M’s Thursday mandate. In an interview before the A&M announcement, Perry said transitioning online will take some learning, since she has never done it before and is trying to find ways for her interactive, hands-on courses to be effective in a digital format.
“I would like to go back to the classroom because that’s the part of my job that I love the most,” Perry said, “but my primary concern is stopping the spread of this virus.”
For more information on the A&M and Blinn announcements, visit tamu.edu/coronavirus or blinn.edu/alert/emergency-preparedness.html.