Idaho colleges, universities shift coursework online amid coronavirus pandemic

Boise State University will go first, moving instruction for more than 30,000 students online after the weekend to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The rest of Idaho’s public higher education institutions will follow suit by April 1.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday afternoon to support presidents’ efforts to shift coursework online amid the growing pandemic. Idaho reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus Friday.

The University of Idaho will start online coursework March 23. Idaho State University is planning a March 30 transition date, along with Idaho’s fourth four-year institution, Lewis-Clark State College. The state’s community colleges — the College of Western Idaho, the College of Eastern Idaho, the College of Southern Idaho and North Idaho College — are also planning a March 30 transition.

ISU could go earlier if a coronavirus case surfaces near its campuses, President Kevin Satterlee told the board. The university temporarily closed its Meridian campus Monday amid concerns that a student had contracted the virus.

“(BSU) has the largest footprint in the state,” President Marlene Tromp told the State Board during a special meeting held via conference call. Given the university’s size and inner-city location, students could be a vector for transporting the virus.

State Board members voiced concerns about students who might not be able to leave campus.

BSU students are encouraged to return home as soon as practical, but those with work, research or other obligations may remain in their campus housing. The university will continue to provide housing and dining services to those who need to remain on campus.

“We will not close our doors,” Tromp said in a university news release.

Satterlee said ISU will follow a similar course during its transition.

ISU extended its spring break from March 16-27. Remote courses will resume afterward.

BSU’s swift move to go online follows a campuswide test conducted Friday. Results went “superbly” well, Tromp told the board.

After hearing briefings from the four four-year institutions, the board passed a motion endorsing their plans.

“I think it is very important that the board publicly and loudly support what all of our presidents and our campuses have done to address this difficult situation,” board member Linda Clark said in a news release.

Check back with Idaho Education News for more on this developing story. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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