Everything You Need To Know About Penn State’s Virtual Period

Penn State announced Wednesday that all in-person classes would be suspended and moved online from March 16 until April 3, with campus effectively closed during the same period, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Penn State “strongly discouraged” students from returning to “campus, off-campus locations, and group dwellings.”

The university has released extensive information regarding housing during the closure, online class protocol, and the status of events on campus, among other topics. It has also created a closure-specific email address and a frequently-asked-questions site filled with information related to the virtual period.

Here’s a guide to the information you’ll need until in-person classes resume.

Housing And Dining Facilities

Penn State housing announced Wednesday afternoon that it would email students with more information on the closure within the next 24 hours.

Penn State indicated in its initial release that students who must return to campus due to extenuating circumstances and international students who are already on campus should contact their housing office to make individual arrangements for visits to retrieve belongings or temporary lodging while residence halls are closed. Contact information for each campus housing office can be found here. The University Park Housing Office can be reached at 814-865-7501 or [email protected].

Students who are currently living in residence halls over break will be allowed to remain there, according to the university’s closure FAQ page. Penn State also indicated that it does not plan to refund campus housing contracts or meal points for the virtual period, but that it would reconsider this decision if it was extended beyond the period’s April 6 end date.

The release also indicated that Penn State would not reopen dining facilities during the closure apart from those already in use.

Students on payment plans will still need to make their next installment for room and board, but the university will be “flexible” regarding deadlines.

The university has not yet announced when residence halls will reopen prior to April 6.

Online Class Resources

Online learning and collaboration will take place through programs such as Canvas, Zoom, Office 365 (including Teams), and Kaltura. Classes will still be held during their normal time slots, and group projects, quizzes, and exams will still be administered. Class participation will be monitored through discussion boards and other interactive “online engagement tools.”

Penn State indicated that it does not anticipate academic progress or programs to be impacted by the closure, including research positions or assistantships held by graduate students. The university will also continue to maintain special accommodations for students with disabilities.

Penn State directed students without access to the internet or a laptop to contact Penn State’s IT support department or Penn State Libraries for guidance or to possibly receive necessary materials by mail.

The university left many details, such as protocol for lab or exercise-based courses, to its instructors, and encouraged students to visit its remote learning website before online classes begin.

Campus Events

Penn State Athletics announced that all home games would be closed to fans during the university’s virtual period. Only the following individuals will be permitted to attend campus sporting events:

  • Essential personnel as designated by Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics
  • Participating student-athletes, coaches, and staffers
  • Families of participating student-athletes, coaches, and staffers
  • Members of the media
  • Recruits

All fans with tickets to Penn State hockey’s Big Ten semifinal will be reimbursed.

The university also announced that “all non-essential events should be canceled, rescheduled, or offered virtually through April 3” regardless of their size, and no new non-essential events should be scheduled. Essential large events with more than 50 people in attendance must be approved by Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones via email at [email protected]. Event requests must include an explanation of how organizers plan to maintain social distancing.

Financial Aid

Penn State indicated that concerns about work-study or paying a semester bill would be addressed should the virtual period extend beyond a “short-term disruption.”

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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