UBC preparing for possibility of remote exams, lessons due to COVID-19
The University of British Columbia campus is seen in this aerial shot. (UBC)
VANCOUVER -- The University of British Columbia is preparing for the possibility of letting students take exams remotely should the COVID-19 virus begin spreading on campus.
While there haven't been any presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the university yet, concerns have been growing among the student population. A petition calling on UBC to "suspend in-person instruction ASAP" has been signed nearly 1,300 times.
"I feel unsafe going to classes every day knowing that so many cases could be out there, untested and undiagnosed," one student wrote. "Classes are already half full because people are scared – at least make it option."
But the university has stressed that the public risk of catching the virus, according to federal health officials, remains low.
Matthew Ramsey from UBC media relations told CTV News the university is aware of the petition, as well as the level of concern in the campus community, and is working on contingency plans for a number of worst-case scenarios.
"We are currently exploring the potential to do … take-home or remote exams, should that be required," Ramsey said. "We're also working with faculty and staff to develop a system whereby faculty have the option to provide remote instruction and we do expect to roll out details on that in the coming days."
But the university said it's too early to speculate on whether such systems would ever need to be employed. Any decision to do so on either the Vancouver or Kelowna campuses would be done in consultation with local health authorities and the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Ramsey said UBC struck a task force back in January with the specific aim of preparing for different COVID-19 scenarios, and that details on its current approach are available on the university's website.
"We are working really hard to make sure our community is kept well aware of what the university is up to and we're posting all that information routinely," he added.
The latest update, posted Wednesday morning, advises any students who have been to China's Hubei province, Iran or Italy to stay home or isolate themselves in their residence room for 14 days and monitor for symptoms.
Those living in residence with a roommate are advised to contact UBC's Student Housing and Community Services to find alternative options.
UBC said it's also mitigating risks with routine daily cleaning and by posting information on how to reduce the spread of infections.