Stanford moves classes online to deal with coronavirus outbreak

It hopes the internet can help prevent COVID-19 from spreading on campus.

Online education is about to get a major (if short) field test. Stanford University is moving the last two weeks of winter quarter classes online "to the extent feasible" to reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading on campus. There will be no classes in person starting March 9th, the school said. To help with the abrupt transition, the university will both provide "further guidance and tools" and encourage professors to cancel classes outright on March 9th if they need time to adapt their remaining classes.

Final exams will still take place when possible, but they'll have to be take-home exams. If a remote class or exam isn't an option, Stanford will let professors look for alternatives to those methods or even submit grades based on work to date. The campus itself will remain open, although Stanford is encouraging remote work when it's an option.

The news came as two students were self-isolating after possible exposure to the new coronavirus, although neither had tested positive as of this writing.

Stanford is unlikely to be the only school using online classes to minimize the chances of coronavirus infections, but it's certainly a high-profile example. If the online shift goes well, it could also serve as a template for other academic institutions that want to offer remote classes on a large scale, whether or not their decision is prompted by a health crisis.