cal state

Cal State Plans to Hold Almost All Classes Virtually This Fall Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

All 23 campuses will shift to remote learning with only a few possible exceptions for labs or clinical training, the California State chancellor announced Tuesday.

The chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system announced on Tuesday that nearly all classes held in the fall 2020 semester will be offered online and not in-person due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Timothy White told the Cal State system’s board of trustees that there may be limited exceptions for in-person classes, including clinical nursing classes, biology labs or merchant marine courses, but the vast majority of courses would be held virtually.

“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” White said, according to The New York Times. “That approach, sadly, just isn’t in the cards now as I have described.”

The expectation that a viable vaccine will not become widely available until 2021, along with the lack of capacity for universities to contain outbreaks or conduct contact tracing of people who were in proximity to infected people, led to White’s decision.

He said it would be “irresponsible” to cancel classes in August rather than using the summer to prepare for a better remote learning experience for faculty and students.

White also noted that any in-person classes would have special restrictions to ensure that students and staff remained healthy, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“The enrollment per section will be less; for instruction and research laboratories the distance between participants greater; the need for personal protective equipment appropriate to the circumstance prevalent; and the need to sanitize and disinfect spaces and equipment between users essential,” White said.

Universities across the country are developing contingency plans for a number of scenarios, including the resumption of in-person classes in August, in spring 2021 or a hybrid of virtual and in-person instruction next semester. (Our latest update on university plans can be found here).

Higher education experts believe the Cal State announcement could influence other universities to make decisions on their own instruction plans.

“Cal State is an extraordinarily large and important university system and an awful lot of other institutions will watch this development carefully,” Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, told the Times.

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

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