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Tech moves to online classes to combat coronavirus

HOUGHTON — As a precaution against the COVID-19 virus, Michigan Technological University will institute online-only classes for at least the next month when students return from spring break Monday.

The restrictions will continue at least until April 17, the university said in a statement Wednesday. The university will decide by April 10 whether to extend the time period.

“We must all stay vigilant to help protect each other and our community from the potential effects of this virus,” said Michigan Tech President Rick Koubek. “Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 response team, consisting of University leadership and public health officials, has reviewed and is modifying as needed our plans for preventing the contraction and/or spread of COVID-19. Six University task forces have prepared for and are responding to implications and impacts on the campus community.”

In response to a question about how online classes would function with lab work, the university said the online experience would vary by discipline and course level. There are ways professors can use online teaching to closely replicate an in-person lab, the university said.

“For instance, in a chemistry course, an instructor could conduct an experiment, record that experiment, and post it so that students can watch and hear the instructor’s explanations,” the university said. “The main things instructors need to do is identify intended learning outcomes and make sure students meet those outcomes.”

Tech will decide in the coming weeks if final exams will be administered online.

As a preventative measure for the community’s health and safety, Michigan Tech is asking faculty, staff and students to re-evaluate all face-to-face, on-campus gatherings of 25 people or more through April, the university said. No new events will be scheduled on campus through April 17.

The university is seeking to mitigate potential impacts from the spread of the virus. Michigan Tech is on spring break, with most students traveling outside the Houghton-Hancock area. To guard against someone unwittingly bringing coronavirus back to campus, the university is limiting the time students are spending in close proximity to each other until at least two weeks after spring break ends.

“We are working closely with Michigan Tech to monitor developments related to COVID-19,” Pete Baril, director of community planning for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, said in a statement. “We thank them for their proactive approach in helping mitigate the impacts associated with the spread of the disease.”

Students can return to campus. Students, faculty and staff are being encouraged to practice appropriate social distancing and enhanced preventative public health and hygiene measures.

Tech had already issued university-wide travel restrictions for China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. Tech is also asking students, faculty and staff to reconsidr domestic travel through April 20.

People who have been in an area with sustained COVID-19 transmission within the past 14 days are asked to fill out a Returning Traveler’s Form on Tech’s website. People feeling ill should go to the emergency room at UP Health System – Portage (906-483-1000) or Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital (906-337-6500). They are asked to first call ahead.

High-risk populations, as identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraged not to return to campus. That includes older adults, as well as people with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

Dining services and residential housing will remain open and operational. Facilities and dining staff have increased the frequency of sanitizing high-contact areas such as doorknobs, faucets and elevator buttons, Tech said on its COVID-19 site. It also added more hand-sanitizing stations in dining halls. Dining services and residential housing will remain open and operational. Dining staff received additional training on COIV-19 response.

At this time, Michigan Tech Athletics will remain in normal operation, consistent with guidance from the NCAA, GLIAC and WCHA. No on- or off-campus athletic events are being canceled or postponed.

The Athletics department may revisit this decision based on NCAA, CDC or Western Upper Peninsula Health Department guidance, or as the situation warrants.

The University is working closely with the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department and following the guidance of the CDC in monitoring COVID-19 developments.

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