So your college classes are online, now what? 6 things to know about changes caused by COVID-19 health crisis


HOUSTON – As the Coronavirus continues to spread and cause commotion across the world, many universities across the state of Texas have been forced to extend their spring break schedule, have the remainder of their semester’s classes held online and in some cases both. Major events and sports leagues are being suspended across the world, and the state of Texas is doing the right thing in putting the health of their students and faculty before anything.

You — as a parent or student — may have some questions regarding how the remainder of the semester is going to go. Here are some of the things you need to know.

How will the online classes work?

These online classes are to be held at a similar pace to the in-person classes. Obviously, it can vary by school, but overall, there are two ways online classes usually run: self-paced and in real-time.

What are real-time online classes?

Web-based classes that run in real-time will hold lectures on specific class days, likely the days that the actual class was held on. The syllabus will look the same, with the only difference being the lectures will be online and assignments will be submitted electronically. There will still be deadlines to meet, lectures to watch and assignments to complete with due dates throughout the week. Many universities utilize sites such as Canvas and Zoom to present the online lectures. The class will run at a similar pace, but the lectures will be held online.

What are self-paced online classes?

Self-paced online classes will allow students to do the class work at whatever pace they wish, as long as they meet the deadlines for tests and projects. These types of classes tend to have their due dates spread out over periods of one to four weeks, unlike the weekly assignments that are due in a real-time online course. The professor will provide notes or lectures in the form of a document or PowerPoint-like application, set a handful of deadlines for projects or tests and will expect that the student meets these deadlines and keeps up with the lectures. The main difference? The students are able to do so at their own pace.

Will this affect my/my children’s college credits?

The realistic answer to that is no. The pattern that we are starting to see, especially here in Texas, is that classes will be held online, rather than being completely canceled. While some schools have announced that they will make all classes web-based for the entirety of the semester, there are other universities that have not ruled out the idea of having class on campus again. That being said, as long as these online courses are completed and passed, students will receive their college credits.

What happens to the tuition, room and board money?

Tuition money, unless classes are completely canceled, will remain in the pockets of the school with the idea that the university is still providing the same education, with the same teachers, and will hand out the same degree at graduation even if the class is held online. In terms of room and board, many people who have signed leases to live in on or off-campus buildings are under contract to pay their rent under all circumstances. However, with President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency, the idea of refunding tenants probably isn’t off the table for many of these apartment companies looking to retain their customers. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the schools or living complexes will give back tuition or room/board money due to the coronavirus breakout.

What if my child is an out-of-state student?

For parents with children going to school out-of-state, there is no requirement to be physically on campus while classes are being mandatorily held online. Therefore, whether you attend the University of Texas or the University of Arizona, you will be able to take your online classes from your kitchen in Houston if necessary. While the students will be without resources such as libraries, workspaces, and one-on-one teacher meetings, all campus gathering spaces will remain closed until the university opens up their campus.

Click here for a full list of universities, colleges that have announced changes to their classes.