The University of British Columbia is preparing for the potential to move classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Back in early January, we convened a group of stakeholders from across campus to look at these types of scenarios, as we watched the outbreak of COVID-19 begin in China and then spread around the world,” said UBC spokesperson Matthew Ramsay.
“That group now meets frequently, in constant conversation, and we’re looking now at the potential for offering classes online, as well as the potential for offering exams remotely, should that be required.”
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Ontario’s Laurentian University became the first in Canada to officially move all classes online Wednesday, the same day coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
A UBC student started an online petition just a day prior, asking the school to suspend in-person instruction.
As of March 11, the petition has garnered nearly 1,700 signatures.
“Many lectures at UBC have over 150 students in a closed room, and a typical student may come into contact with thousands of individuals in one day at UBC,” said the petition by UBC student Sean Lin.
“UBC is a hotbed for infection, and students and staff are endangering the health of themselves and their loved ones attending school.”
However, Ramsay says that the decision to move classes online will be made in consultation with healthcare partners, including Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, BC Centre for Disease Control, the Provincial Medical Health Office, and Interior Health and the Ministry of Health.
“We are fully aware of the petition and we fully understand the concerns that students are raising, they are similar to the concerns that all of us are facing in here in Vancouver, in BC and around the world,” said Ramsey.
“We are looking to do the best we can, and make the most prudent decisions we can in consultation with our health care partners.”
UBC’s website says it is currently not aware of any cases amongst students, faculty, or staff, both within BC or abroad.
As of March 11, there are 46 confirmed cases of coronavirus in BC.