CPP introduces COVID-19 spring pop-up course

Cal Poly Pomona’s Office of Academic Innovation is introducing a COVID-19 pop-up course for the spring 2021 semester emphasizing biological, psychological and philosophical perspectives on the ongoing pandemic.

The course, CPU 2990, will be taught by three instructors from their area of expertise: biology professor Andrew Steele, psychology professor Robert Blumenfeld and philosophy professor Dale Turner. This three-unit course will count towards GE area E with no pre-required classes and will be available to all majors. The course will be offered online in a fully synchronous format.

Steele acknowledged that there is still much not known about COVID-19, but simply being more educated on the matter is the initiative behind the new course.

“We’re not going to come away with answers, but if students come away with how to approach it and how to think about it so they can critically evaluate what politicians and news articles are saying, that would be a huge success for me,” said Steele.

Classes will rotate through the three professors every five weeks and allow students to learn the three angles in studying the virus, which are from the biological, psychological and philosophical standpoint.

Steele will offer his knowledge on the biological understanding of the disease and how it spreads.

“I want to make sure students know what a virus is, what a DNA virus is versus an RNA virus… covering what is immunity, what is herd immunity, all these terms that everyone is coming across in the media coverage,” Steele said.

Given its relevancy and importance, the COVID-19 pop-up course has already piqued student interest.

James Chu, a third-year computer information systems student, hopes the course can answer questions about the psychological effects of social distancing during the pandemic.

“For psychological, how would this affect future children… kids or teenagers who are currently going through this right now? How much of a negative effect would it cause on them and what would the long-term consequences of online classes be,” he asked.

Blumenfeld intends to lend his knowledge to such questions.

“I wanted to focus on what the virus does to the brain, there’s some research on that area, but also the impact of isolation,” Blumenfeld said. “The impact that we’re all sort of experiencing, the stress, feelings, anxiety and all of the things that happen to our brains and to our mental states, bodies when our routines are disrupted, and we are socially isolated.”

CPU 2990 is the second pop-up course offered at CPP. The first pop-up course, called “Our Automated Future,” focused on automation from technology, ethics and service business perspectives and was offered during the fall 2019 semester.

Originally, this semester’s pop-up course was intended to focus on the opioid epidemic, but given the global crisis, organizers decided to shift focus.

“When we were designing the class, the pandemic hit and we couldn’t think about anything else,” Blumenfeld said. “It just seemed really silly to do a class on this topic and if we had the freedom to create a topic of our own, we might as well do it on the thing that everyone is constantly thinking about, which was COVID.”

While the class focuses on three specific aspects of the pandemic, students of all majors are welcome to enroll.

“We’re really trying to make it accessible to everyone, so I hope that just anyone that’s interested in COVID-19 which, I think, is probably a lot of us would have a lot of benefit,” said Steele.

More information can be found here.

(Feature image courtesy of Visuals)

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