UNL will finish semester online; no classes next week

UNL will finish semester online; no classes next week

From the Latest updates on coronavirus in Lincoln and nearby series

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced Thursday it would join the dozens of colleges and universities that have suspended in-person classes to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Husker Athletics also shut down for the remainder of the school year, as the continued spread of the COVID-19 infection brought news alert after news alert.

There will be no NCAA men's basketball tournament, arguably the signature college sports event. And summer in Nebraska will not include the College World Series. That's off, too.

As part of UNL's announcement, shared in an email Thursday afternoon, Chancellor Ronnie Green said the university will cancel classes next week — March 16-20 — ahead of its regularly scheduled spring break.

After the break, on March 30, all spring semester classes will be taught remotely for the remainder of the semester, Green said. The university will remain open, as will the residence halls, but students are being encouraged to go home.

Students who cannot leave campus can remain in the dormitories and use the dining facilities, the chancellor added. Libraries will remain open, too, although students and faculty are encouraged to maintain social distancing.

"I appreciate that dealing with the impact of this pandemic has been challenging in many ways," Green wrote. "We are, and will be, working through unprecedented changes in how we meet our education, research and engagement missions."

The two-week period without any classes is designed to give faculty and staff time to prepare for the remainder of the semester, Green said.

UNL instructor Wendy Jane Bantam, who teaches arts in elementary education, said she had already been preparing her students for online teaching, giving them assignments similar to those she’ll make in a couple weeks.

Thursday, her students received the email from Green with about 10 minutes left in class.

“Luckily, I had my students putting together art kits,” Bantam said. “It looked like a tornado went through the studio. They went home with little watercolor kits, graphite, paints, brushes, little balls of clay and paper. I can’t wait to see the work they create,” she said.

Earlier this week, a UNL task force asked faculty and students to begin preparing in the event in-person classes were called off.

The task force urged faculty to perform readiness checks by March 11, including tests to see if they have working computer hardware, access to the internet and the ability to use several programs necessary to deliver education online.

Deb Fiddelke, UNL's chief communications and marketing officer, said the later-than-normal spring break gave the university additional time to evaluate its options as it prepared to close.

All other members of the Big Ten Conference announced their plans to close earlier this week.

Administrators at UNL said they expect faculty and staff will prepare to conduct remote classes over the next two weeks, and the semester will continue in an organized fashion, rather than a "mad scramble," Fiddelke said.

Green said UNL was also canceling all study-abroad trips through June 30, while departure dates scheduled July 1 or later will be evaluated at a future time.

Following President Donald Trump's announcement of new travel restrictions Wednesday night, the U.S. Department of State heightened health advisories for all other countries, meaning UNL students studying abroad will be recalled.

There are approximately 85 UNL students still overseas; the university said it would start working with those individuals, particularly those with the greatest financial need, to help them return to the U.S.

NU President Ted Carter, who is still within his first 100 days leading the system, said Thursday the university would put the health and safety of students and employees at the "highest priority."

"The steps we are taking today will require all of us to make some adjustments," Carter said, "but we believe this is the right thing to do for our community. I know our faculty, staff and students will rise to the challenge."

The University of Nebraska at Omaha announced it would also take a two-week spring break before suspending in-person classes in lieu of "remote teaching" starting March 30.

UNO said students without internet access may use the campus wireless internet or apply to check out a limited number of laptops.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center will move its pre-clinical classes online following spring break weeks, which vary by program.

At the University of Nebraska at Kearney, classes will continue as scheduled next week before spring break. Then, "remote instruction will continue through the end of the spring semester, May 8."

Other colleges and universities:

* Creighton University in Omaha will start online courses Sunday as students return from spring break. The Jesuit university encouraged students on break to remain at home and not return to campus until April 13, when in-person classes could resume. Creighton will remain operational, but said in a statement all public university events were canceled.

* Nebraska Wesleyan University said it would extend its spring break through March 20 — the liberal arts college in Lincoln is currently on spring break — before moving to a distance-education format starting March 23. NWU students can still access campus and choose to move back into their dormitories Sunday.

* Doane University in Crete canceled classes March 16-22, extending its current spring break. When classes resume March 23, Doane will feature an online or virtual format. "We will be using this break time to allow our faculty to convert their courses online and to develop the many details required to be able to answer questions from our community," President Jacque Carter said.

* Concordia University in Seward will take a similar track. Currently on spring break, Concordia will extend the days off through next week and move to online-only class formats March 23. In-person classes could reconvene April 3. "We are continuing to monitor the situation and see if that's the best route," spokesman Logan Tuttle said.

* Southeast Community College announced Thursday it planned to call off classes March 16-20 to allow faculty "to convert their face-to-face courses to an online format," President Paul Illich said. Technical courses and labs could still take place in person, he added. SCC's campuses will remain open and services will be available to students.

* Union College has convened a task force that has continually evaluated the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, spokesman Ryan Teller said, but the college has not made any decision to close. The Seventh-day Adventist school in College View is on spring break next week.

Latest Nebraska updates:

Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS. 

Reporter L. Kent Wolgamott contributed to this story.

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