Bay Area Colleges Mull How to Hold Fall Classes

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With fall registration just around the corner, Bay Area colleges and universities are making plans for operating their campuses amid the coronavirus crisis.

San Jose State University leaders this week sent out messages to faculty, staff and students saying the online-only option is the most likely scenario for the start of the fall semester.

"It is probably a bit over-used to call it the “new normal,” but I am not sure higher education, in the near or long-term future, will look the way it did a year ago," SJSU Provost Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. said in a letter Wednesday. "The best option, for now, based on what we know is to plan that the majority of our courses -- particularly lecture courses -- will be fully online."

That approach could change, Del Casino added, based on guidance from public health officials, but the university needs a plan -- and a course schedule -- in place now.

Classes at San Jose State are scheduled to start Aug. 17.

Several college campuses were forced to convert to distance learning this spring as the coronavirus spread and shelter-at-home restrictions were issued.

At California State University, East Bay, all classes are online right now. That could remain the case moving forward.

"The data shows that we most likely would be in some kind of a social distance requirement," CSUEB Provost Edward Inch said.

Inch said the university has created a task force in charge of figuring out which classes in the fall can be taught in a hybrid fashion, meaning part online, part in-person.

"We would need to configure courses and labs and activities in ways that allow people to have some physical separation," he said.

Inch said even if most classes remain online, fall tuition is likely not going to change.

"I think people sometimes think, 'Well, if it’s online, it must be cheaper to develop or use,'" he said. "That’s generally not the case. The primary cost is the person teaching the course."

Diablo Valley College physics major Jordan Snyder-Reyes misses being able to ask her professor questions in person.

"Now I’m stuck with just his face on a computer reading the textbook, which isn’t the easiest thing to understand," she said.

Snyder-Reyes predicts her fall physics courses will only get tougher. Another virtual semester won’t make the coursework easier.  

"I feel like I would have to put in a lot more work to studying than I would if we had face-to-face classes," she said.

Other colleges and universities in the area have yet to announce their plans for the fall term.

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