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Local colleges finishing semester online

WVU-P postpones spring commencement

PARKERSBURG — Local colleges are moving coursework online for the rest of the semester as some are starting to formulate plans on how to handle spring commencement.

Officials from West Virginia University at Parkersburg, Ohio Valley University, Marietta College and Washington State Community College are making plans to handle class work for the rest of this semester in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to maintain social distancing to keep the students as safe as possible, officials said.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg will continue with online classes for the rest of the semester, college officials said Tuesday.

Officials are monitoring the situation, according to a press release from WVU-P.

WVU-P President Chris Gilmer, in an e-mail sent to the campus community, said he has had to accept the reality the university will not be able to hold the May 2020 commencement.

”I am officially announcing that it has been postponed,” he said. ”I have waited longer than most college presidents to make this decision because I realize, based on feedback from our students and my own experience, that commencement is the most important and cherished time of the year for our graduates and their families.”

Gilmer said a virtual commencement was considered which would have allowed the university to celebrate at the usual time, but was judged to be an insufficient way for the university to fully mark the accomplishments of students.

He still wants to be able to do a live graduation toward the end of summer so students and their families could celebrate those accomplishments.

”WVU Parkersburg’s Spring 2020 Commencement is being postponed until Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020,” Gilmer said. ”At present, nothing except the date will change.

”The postponed ceremony will be designed to be a moment of even greater celebration for our graduates and their families. Please hold the date Aug. 8 for our postponed spring commencement.”

The university had originally planned to return to face-to-face instruction on April 20. However, based on the extended national social distancing policy, that goal can no longer be met until May 4 at the earliest, Gilmer said.

”We will currently hope to resume face-to-face instruction for one or two weeks in early May so that our labs and more hands-on programs can finish the semester with fuller teaching and learning options,” Gilmer said.” If the social distancing guidelines are extended, we will revise our plans and make further announcements.

”Regardless, we expect to finish this semester’s academic instruction in one format or another and to proceed fully with summer and fall instruction.”

Officials with Ohio Valley University posted on its website that the Higher Learning Commission has granted permission for the university to conduct all of their courses online for the remainder of the semester.

”This means you will need to be extremely proactive through this transition in the way you engage in each course,” the post told students.

All planned activities on campus are either canceled or postponed for the remainder of the semester. Cancellations include Expressions, New Day Conference and the Spring Musical. Encounter is being postponed.

”Graduation is not being canceled, but commencement exercises will be postponed to a later date,” the post said. ”Graduates will receive their diplomas as coursework is completed at the end of the semester.”

Marietta College also is continuing online coursework and will conduct a virtual commencement on May 3, according to a post on the college’s website.

The college will hold the virtual ceremony so students’ achievements are still recognized. Later in the summer, the college will mail each graduate their diploma.

”However, President Bill Ruud understands that this milestone must also include an on-campus ceremony,” the post said. ”The college is still working out the details, but there will be a traditional commencement scheduled at a later date.”

Classes are continuing online at Washington State Community College.

Officials had originally planned to resume on-campus classes next week. However, as social distancing recommendations have been extended to the end of April, most class work has moved online. Including College Credit Plus sections for dual enrollment students, 380 courses were moved to a virtual format.

Faculty devised videos and utilized technology in other ways to teach and supply students with needed data to complete coursework as stay-at-home orders were initiated.

“Each faculty member rose to the challenge and devised plans to ensure their students could still learn. The challenge they were presented with was enormous, yet when classes were back in session the following week, they were ready,” said Vicky Wood, president of WSCC. ”We used best practices to quickly devise a plan to keep our students on track to finish their courses this semester and in many cases, complete their degrees.”

The spring commencement will be postponed, said Washington State Marketing Director Elizabeth Godfrey.

Washington State officials will meet today to discuss plans for how to proceed with graduation and other celebratory events, she said.

An announcement is expected to be made soon to the community on what those plans will entail.

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