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Penn is preparing teachers for the possibility of shifting teaching to online instead of in classrooms amid the corona virus outbreak. 

Credit: Amanda Suarez

Penn is asking instructors to prepare for the possibility of shifting classes online amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In an email sent to all teaching faculty on Monday afternoon, Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein encouraged instructors to familiarize themselves with online-teaching tools in case Penn decides to cancel in-person classes. 

Winkelstein wrote that as of now, classes are expected to meet as scheduled when Penn returns from spring break on Monday, March 16. 

But Penn is set to send out an update tomorrow on its response to coronavirus regarding travel and large events, according to an email sent to School of Arts and Sciences spring 2020 instructors from College Dean Steven Fluharty, College Dean Paul Sniegowski, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Beth Wenger, and Vice Dean for Liberal and Professional Studies Nora Lewis.

If Penn shifts to online courses, the deans urge teachers to "keep it simple" and to "use the Penn-recommended tools that [they] are most comfortable with to accomplish [their] course needs in the most straightforward way."

The repercussions for lab courses, studio courses, and courses involving clinical requirements are unclear. Winkelstein wrote that instructors for these classes should develop a plan with their department chairs.

The email to all faculty featured links explaining how to use multiple remote teaching tools like Canvas, Panopto, Zoom, and BlueJeans. Panopto is used for recording lectures, while Zoom and BlueJeans work best for discussion-based seminars, Winkelstein wrote.

Winkelstein encouraged faculty to test their computers' video cameras and microphones, as well as to update their operating systems.

The instructions to prepare for online classes mirror the responses of other universities in the northeast. Princeton University called off in-person classes for at least two weeks after their spring break. Columbia University also canceled classes for Monday and Tuesday and shifted instruction online for the rest of the week.