Ole Miss, Mississippi State considering move to online spring classes

Published 4:59 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Two Mississippi universities are considering shifting their spring classes to online-only the remainder of the semester.

Officials from the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State confirm they are considering the change due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Deans from Ole Miss are scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the move, and what challenges it might entail if the University decides to close their classrooms.

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Mississippi State officials also confirmed the school is evaluating a move to online course instruction.

“Faculty should begin preparations for this move should it be warranted in the coming days/weeks. Classroom experiences such as laboratories and performance classes are being considered in this evaluation,” a statement from Mississippi State said.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State are currently in the middle of spring break with students out until March 16. Mississippi is still one of a handful of states to not have a confirmed case of COVID-19, but many facilities across the state are taking precautions regardless.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus as a worldwide pandemic.

Last week, Ole Miss Provost Noel Wilkins sent a letter to faculty telling them to prepare for the potential of shifting the remainder of their classes to online.

“We need to be proactive in our planning to ensure that we can assure the continuity of pursuing our mission and educational endeavors should COVID-19 necessitate changes to our teaching and learning,” Wilkins’ letter read.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State would be the third and fourth Southeastern Conference school to shift to online classes, should a decision be made in the following days. Vanderbilt and Kentucky made the switch in recent days. Kentucky is doing online-only classes for a couple weeks once students return from spring break later this month.

The Univesity of Southern Mississippi has not made a statement about moving to online classes and has said USM will be open.

“The University is not currently suspending classes, services or closing offices,” a statement on the website said. “Residence halls, dining facilities, libraries, labs, and study spaces will remain open.  Students can continue to access computers in libraries and other labs throughout our campuses.”

Prior to spring break, some administrative actions by Ole Miss and MSU have already been taken to ensure the community’s safety, including study abroad cancellations and student, faculty and staff travel restrictions to certain areas that meet the following levels of concern:

• CDC Alert Level 2 (Sustained Community Transmission, Practice Enhanced Precautions)
• CDC Warning Level 3 (Avoid All Non-essential Travel)
• U.S. Department of State Advisory Level 4 (Do Not Travel due to COVID-19).
This currently includes travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea.
USM is suspending all University-sponsored international travel, to any country—regardless of mode of transportation.