UC Merced moves to remote learning amid coronavirus concerns

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Merced County, but UC Merced is taking steps to limit the potential for exposure to the virus.

At first glance, you might not notice the changes at UC Merced. Students are still out and about, but the university is now moving toward remote learning instead of holding large in-person classes due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Interim Chancellor Nathan Brostrom says, "Clearly this is a very serious global pandemic, and we are treating it as such."

Brostrom adds there are a number of digital tools instructors can use, and extra training and support are available to help them make the transition.

He says, "In some cases the best way to do it immediately is to go to audio capture where we're capturing lectures that students can listen to on their computer or even their iPhone."

The university is also cancelling all large events and is prepared to quarantine students if necessary, but the campus itself is not closing.

Brostrom says, "The dorms are operational. Dining is operational. We have public safety and student health. That's really important because above all we want our students to be healthy and safe, and in some cases being on campus is the best place for them to be."

Many other universities across the country are taking similar steps, including UCLA and USC. Students we spoke with at UC Merced say they prefer taking classes in person, but they appreciate the focus on safety.

Jarrod Gonzalez says, "Some classes are a bit of a struggle because the online transition is not going as smoothly as some would hope, but I do like that they're taking preemptive measures to limit the spread. Of course you can't fully stop it."

Students are also glad the campus is staying open.

Abigail Caporal says, "Some of the students come from bigger cities where it is more affected, so some students feel safer here on campus than they do back home."

Brostrom says most of the athletic seasons are already over so that's not a big concern, but it's possible there will need to be changes to the large orientation that would normally be held for new students in the summer. He's staying in touch daily with other UC leaders and health officials to help make those difficult decisions moving forward.
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