San Francisco State University has moved classes online through April 6 to reduce the transmission of coronavirus. Kevin N. Hume/ S.F. Examiner

Students worry about impact on grades, graduation as universities make abrupt switch to online classes

Students and faculty are scrambling to adapt to online instruction after a number of colleges in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area canceled in-person classes this week to prevent the easily transmittable coronavirus from spreading.

San Francisco State University, University of San Francisco and City College of San Francisco are just a few of the colleges that canceled in-person classes this week as the number of COVID-19 cases in The City continued to grow. In most cases, classes will be taught over the internet, but not all instructors are ready to make that switch.

Jennifer Worley, president of the American Federation of Teachers Local 2121, a union representing faculty at CCSF, said the situation is less than ideal.

“We’re going to have to adapt the best we can,” Worley said. “The question for faculty is whether their curriculum adapts. For example, a dance class would not adapt to online.”

While SFSU, USF and CCSF all have online systems for posting and accepting assignments, not all instructors use them to the same extent.

For some it could take time to learn the programs. For others, coursework simply may not be suitable for an online format, as with the aircraft maintenance classes taught at CCSF. At least in the case of CCSF, those courses will resume at a later date.

“I’m absolutely upset that classes are being canceled,” said Marcella Farris, a senior communications major at SFSU.

Farris is among the students who are concerned their grades — or even graduation — will be affected by the course changes.

“My two most difficult classes are face-to-face, I am quite worried my grades will suffer,” said Farris. “All I can hope is that in two months I will still be able to walk for graduation.”

Students and faculty at University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, Golden Gate University, and Academy of Art University are also having to grapple with in-person courses being suspended.

“This transition has happened very suddenly, pretty much overnight,” said Sarah Skaff, a freshman at UC Berkeley. “I think because of the sudden reaction of the school, it caused a lot of panic with all of the students.”

While SFSU in-person classes are slated to resume April 6, in-person classes at CCSF are canceled for the rest of the semester and will instead continue in a “modified” format, according to the college.

USF said its in-person classes will be suspended at least through March 29. The schools said they will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as needed.

Some instructors had already moved their classes online due to coronavirus concerns before the school’s mandates.

“I moved my in-person course for this semester to an online format five weeks ago,” said Christopher Carrington, an associate professor of sociology at SFSU.

In a letter to students Tuesday, CCSF officials said, “We are committed to continuing all of our spring 2020 credit classes and supporting students who plan to graduate and transfer at the end of this semester.”

SFSU spokesperson Kent Bravo was unable to confirm Wednesday whether in-person class cancellations would affect student’s ability to graduate on time, or if some classes not suitable for an online format would need to be rescheduled.

SFSU and CCSF campuses will remain open while classes are held online, though campus events are canceled. SFSU housing will also remain open, but the college is encouraging residents able to return to a different home to do so as a social distancing measure.

“Housing remains open, because it has to for international students, Guardian Scholars, students in our Gator Crisis Housing, students who are employed in San Francisco, and students who may not have the resources for remote learning in their home communities,” SFSU administrators said in a letter to students.

Carrington, the SFSU associate professor, said while he can’t speak for the faculty at-large, his department is ready for the transition to online courses.

“Some students might well suffer,” Carrington said. “But their suffering is a small price to pay as we make sure we protect the elderly and the immunocompromised individuals in our communities.”

Cbrowning@sfexaminer.com

David Horowitz contributed to this story.

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