KALAMAZOO, Mich. — When Viola Dagadu learned on Wednesday that Western Michigan University was canceling its in-person classes and moving them online, she spoke with her dad in Ghana.
“He wanted me to come home,” she said during an interview with FOX 17. “But I still have assignments to do and turn in.”
Dagadu said most students are staying in their dorms and homes, making the campus a quiet place on Thursday.
“Very dead,” said Kalem Dinh, describing what the campus felt like. “I just got done working at a dining center, actually, and usually we’re pretty busy. A lot of people come in, and now I made like seven omelets and usually I go by like 50.”
Dinh said when he first learned about classes going online he didn’t think much of it. However, later on Dinh wondered how he was going to get his work done, especially any lab work.
“Some people think that this is too much,” he said. “And I probably think it probably is a little too much, considering especially since there’s no cases in Kalamazoo that has been certified yet.”
The Kalamazoo County Health Department told FOX 17 on Wednesday via email that there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area.
However, WMU moved its classes online or "remotely" for precautionary reasons, said provost Dr. Jennifer Bott. “We did this proactively in anticipation of it spreading as it has in other countries,” she said during an interview in her office. “We know from science that proactive measures like what we’re taking to create social distance help flattened the peak curve.”
Dr. Bott said 15 other public colleges and universities in the state were canceling in-person classes and holding them online.
As of Thursday morning, about 1,500 schools nationwide were doing the same, she said.
“We are asking our faculty and our students to try something new, in many cases in the middle of the semester,” Dr. Bott said. “We have plans for how we’re assessing and what we’re learning. So, teaching online or teaching remotely will be new for several members of our faculty.”
She said some professors will be video conferencing while others will have narrated PowerPoints.
Dr. Bott said she's found that online classes can be helpful for students. She taught an online graduate business course for seven years.
“It was fascinating,” she said. “When I taught online, my students that never participated in the classrooms suddenly were some of my most active contributors. And so, online affords our students different opportunities to participate in their class activities.”
Dr. Bott added that class will remain online at least through April 3. A few days before, on March 30, school officials will sit down and determine whether or not to continue with remote instruction or to invite students and professors back to the classroom.
For now, Dr. Bott believes creating social distance will be best for everyone on campus. “As long as we are not having in person contact with anybody, I think we should be fine right now,” Dagadu said. “There are no confirmed cases on campus. So, so far everything is good.”