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HUNTINGTON — With cases of COVID-19 rising in the Tri-State, Marshall University announced Wednesday it is transitioning more courses to a virtual format.

In an email to students, university President Jerome Gilbert said sophomores, juniors and seniors will have nearly all their courses in a virtual format — meaning class sessions held live via Blackboard and peripheral software, with instructors broadcasting lectures and leading classroom discussions at the specified class meeting day and time. Sessions are recorded so students who do not have reliable access to broadband and/or other technical difficulties can watch the class at another time.

Hands-on courses within an upperclassman student’s major, including labs, clinicals and studio classes, may be offered face-to-face as determined by each academic program.

Freshman and graduate/professional students can expect some combination of face-to-face and virtual classes. Gilbert’s email said it was especially important that freshmen get as close to a traditional college experience as possible.

“This transition will allow us to continue to monitor the status of the pandemic in our community, further reduce density inside our classroom facilities, and preserve, as much as possible, the important on-campus experience for our freshmen,” Gilbert said in the announcement. “It also will give us the best possible chance to move forward safely, while providing a quality educational experience and flexibility for all our students.”

Classes will still begin Aug. 24 as planned.

Residence hall move-in will take place as scheduled, with freshmen moving in Aug. 15-19 and upperclassmen returning Aug. 20-23. Week of Welcome (WOW) programming will be held as planned Aug. 17-23 to acclimate freshmen to life at Marshall.

After Aug. 4, upperclassmen who do not have any face-to-face classes on their schedules may opt to defer their housing and meal plans until the spring 2021 semester by contacting Housing and Residence Life. Fall charges will be removed from their accounts with no penalties.

Tuition will remain the same, but students whose courses are offered entirely in virtual format and who do not want access to campus facilities and activities can choose to opt out of a prorated portion of standard fees. Students who opt out will receive a credit for $460 against the fees on their accounts.

Students whose schedules include some component of face-to-face courses (including labs, etc.), but who have health-related concerns and do not want to be on campus, should contact their advisers for assistance building a schedule with as many courses as possible in the virtual or online formats.

The announcement said there is no guarantee the plan will not change, and circumstances could arise where all courses are transitioned to virtual or online before the end of the fall semester.

“As a university community, we must continue to be flexible and ready to adapt to changing conditions, with the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff as our collective top priority,” Gilbert said.

Course schedules are being updated this week. Virtual town halls are also being scheduled to give students and parents an opportunity to learn more and to ask questions. The town hall schedule will be announced next week.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.