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HARTSVILLE, S.C. — Coker University is taking steps to ensure the success of its students while offering several free COVID-19, one-credit online courses this summer.

In addition to the timely educational benefits, the courses will also help new students get a head start on their first year of college by earning some credits this summer.

Student taking the courses will learn about the science behind the COVID-19 pandemic and how to stay healthy, mentally and physically, during this challenging time.

Three summer online courses are being offered to any interested students, meaning they do not have to be enrolled as a Coker student to take any of the three classes. All courses are one credit, asynchronous (students can complete the coursework on their own time) online courses and are available at no cost. The course are BIOLOGY 199 COVID-19: The Science of a Pandemic, COKER WELLNESS 199: Personal Wellness during Social Isolation, and COKER WELLNESS 199: Physical Wellness during Social Isolation.

“At Coker, we are always looking for innovative ways to serve our students and our community,” said Kathryn Flaherty, vice president of Graduate and Professional Programs at Coker University. “We know many families are facing increased financial and personal stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are excited to offer these free courses, which are of particular benefit given the current situation.”

Flaherty said the idea for these classes came about through brainstorming ways they could serve their students and their community by providing information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was important to us that these courses be free of charge so that anyone who was interested could enroll,” she said. “Finances are tight right now for many of our students, and we wanted to make sure they had the option to earn some credit over the summer without the worry of figuring out how to pay for it.”

These are courses are for freshmen, returning students and students who haven’t yet committed to attend Coker enrolled. Students will be able to transfer the credit to the college of their choice, Flaherty said.

There are about 50 students in each class. Flaherty said the courses filled up very quickly.

Flaherty’s husband, Joseph Flaherty, PhD, is a professor of biology and director of Undergraduate Research at Coker University. He will be teaching one of the courses.

He has been a faculty member at Coker University since 2005. He teaches courses in genetics, cell and molecular biology, and engages students on research projects involving fungal genetics. Flaherty is a principal or co-principal investigator of three active projects funded by the National Science Foundation and also serves as a Senior Editor for the scientific journal Applied Microbiology.

The one-credit course he will be teaching covers five central themes specific to the COVID-19 global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus: Pathogenesis, Immune response, Transmission, Testing/Diagnostics and Treatments.

“Class activities focus on information recently reported in peer-reviewed, scholarly papers published in highly-regarded scientific journals,” he said. “Discussions of one or more studies per central theme are conducted using Coker’s online Learning Management System and Google Hangouts Chat platforms.”

Other faculty members teaching one of the COVID-related classes are: Whitney Cranford, Student Success Coach and adjunct faculty for Psychology Program, who will be teaching Personal Wellness During Social Isolation; and Dan Schmotzer, Coker Wellness Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty for the Physical Education Program, who will be teaching Physical Wellness during Social Isolation.

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