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Other Florida colleges think USF's swine flu plan for online classes seems a little extreme

Unlike the University of South Florida, other big universities around Florida are not making extensive plans to teach all courses online if swine flu closes their campuses this fall.

Administrators have not talked to any medical experts who have suggested a scenario that would lead to closing the University of Florida campus, UF provost Joe Glover said in an e-mail to the Times.

So for now, there's no plan in the works to do that.

The same generally is true at Florida State University.

University of Central Florida is planning for both scenarios: keeping the campus open and having to close, according to UCF spokesman Chad Binette.

But the main focus is on serving students on a campus that stays open for business.

UCF also has an edgy take on raising awareness about swine flu.

Riffing off a Florida Department of Health ad campaign, UCF sends a character known as the Fifth Guy walking around campus. He totes a wheeled urinal with one hand and extends the other hand for a high five.

The Fifth Guy represents the one person in five who health officials say does not practice good hygiene, such as washing hands after using the restroom. Fortunately, UCF's Fifth Guy offers free hand sanitizer with his gross-out greeting.

"It's a hit with the students," Binette said.

Though public health officials are bracing for more widespread outbreaks of the H1N1 flu this fall, no one can say how severe they might be.

At USF, Tapas Das, the associate provost who is coordinating academic contingency plans, has said he sees a swine flu-related closure of the campus as a high probability.

Consequently, USF this week told all students their classes could be moved entirely online in an emergency.

FSU provost Lawrence Abele, a biologist, has read about the global Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

"Even in horribly hit places such as military bases, they were able to get through the terrible events and get back in service fairly quickly," he said in an e-mail.

Abele said he doubts that FSU is looking at a full campus closure for reasons cited by the federal Centers for Disease Control. For one thing, most of FSU's faculty members are in an age group that may have some immunity.

Noting that more than 90 percent of their courses are on Blackboard, an online course management system in use at USF, FSU officials say they will respond if things change.

Similarly, the private University of Miami is encouraging professors to find distance-learning opportunities and alternatives that could come in handy if needed, according to spokeswoman Margot Winick.

At UF, Glover said the logistics of taking all instruction online would be formidable given the size of the campus, diversity of offerings and the need for labs and other specialized facilities.

UF will give students who are sick a chance to make up work, and it will adapt to changing conditions, Glover said.

SWINE FLU

On the Web

Talk about going viral: to see YouTube videos of the urinal-toting, germ-spewing Fifth Guy, visit links.tampabay.com.

Other Florida colleges think USF's swine flu plan for online classes seems a little extreme 08/27/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 27, 2009 9:08pm]
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