Introducing the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s Virtual Plus Campus

July 20, 2020

Dear new and continuing students,

Welcome to the 2020-2021 academic year at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health! This year will be like no other, not only in terms of format but also in the importance, reach, and relevance of our collective work.

I am writing with an update on our fall teaching plans.

Bloomberg School faculty, students, and staff have carefully considered how to achieve our collective teaching mission in this pandemic year and have decided to offer only online and virtual instruction and learning for the first and second terms of the 2020-2021 academic year.

This fall, we will teach, learn, and gather as a community through our Virtual Plus Campus and take advantage of the very best the digital environment has to offer. We are committed to providing an exceptional educational experience—one in which our students study and learn in partnership with faculty at the frontlines of public health research and professional practice.

We hope to resume in-person instruction in Baltimore in January 2021, when our third term begins. This decision will be made later in the fall and will depend on the arc of the pandemic and its mitigation.

Regardless of any further decision made for third and fourth terms, our Virtual Plus Campus will remain fully operational through the entire academic year. This means if you decide not to travel to Baltimore this academic year, you can still benefit from a world-class Bloomberg School education and continue your studies without interruption.

In making this decision, we were guided by a set of well-articulated principles and values shared by our University community as well as by our own experts here at the School who are leading the national dialogue about the pandemic and our response, including decisions about reopening communities. Importantly, we considered factors specific to our School, such as our extensive experience teaching online, our large number of international students, and our solely graduate student body.

We were particularly mindful of the following:

  • The health and safety of staff, students, faculty, and our community are of paramount importance.
  • We must be flexible and innovative in the face of evolving circumstances. Students and faculty have diverse life situations and COVID-19 risk factors. Some will have difficulty participating in on-campus activities due to travel restrictions or health concerns. Others have considerable family care responsibilities. Additionally, we must all be prepared for an interruption in our lives if there is a resurgence of the virus.
  • Equity and inclusiveness are critical to our mission. We are equipped to offer a rich and active learning environment, in which students and faculty regularly connect and have equal opportunities to engage regardless of their location.

We have considered what this means for our international students and how this will impact their ability to enroll in courses at the School this fall. As shared by the Office of International Services here, the U.S. government guidance adopted in March and reinstated in July provides sufficient exemptions to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP) regular in-person enrollment requirements for current students in F-1 status and transfer students already in the U.S. in F-1 status, which will allow them to fully participate in online, remote learning

However, no exemptions have been made for new or transfer students currently residing outside the U.S. This means that new and transfer international students will not be able to enter the U.S. for online study. However, enrollment in our programs and access to our Virtual Plus Campus is possible from most international locations. 

We recognize that individual circumstances vary and encourage you to read the detailed guidance provided by the University here and reach out to your program director with specific questions. Also, please know we will continue to monitor SEVP guidance and adapt to additional changes where possible. 

What will the Virtual Plus Campus look like? 

While our campus will be virtual this fall, you will learn as if you are located in Baltimore: taking classes, attending a noon-time seminar, joining a study group to prepare for a final exam, meeting with your advisor, reaching out to a teaching assistant for extra help, participating in a research project or practice activity, connecting with 

alumni, accessing our career services, and—perhaps most importantly—getting to know our faculty and your fellow students who will become lifelong colleagues and friends. 

Our Virtual Plus classroom instruction draws on well-established pedagogy and Bloomberg School technology that maximizes faculty and student engagement while providing the flexibility to meet the demands we are all facing in these unprecedented times. 

Teaching virtually is not new for us. This video provides a glimpse into the richness of the Bloomberg School virtual environment. 

Many of our courses were previously available online, even before the pandemic hit. These offerings were routinely taken by full-time and part-time distanced-based degree students and consistently received high marks for quality and accessibility. They offer asynchronous, carefully structured lectures and materials that can be viewed by students when convenient. Additionally, these offerings are supplemented by a limited number of synchronous real-time, “livetalk” experiences for engaged learning with faculty and classmates—all delivered via our proprietary CoursePlus learning platform developed by the Bloomberg School and supported by its Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Other courses will take advantage of Zoom technology, with access to streaming studios and technology on our Baltimore campus offering advanced audiovisual equipment, including multiple cameras that can capture the instructor in action—sharing slides, teaching from a whiteboard or using a document camera. The studios also provide large screens, enabling faculty to engage with students while teaching in real time, delivering a rich “in class” experience for our remote learners. Some of these courses will blend the synchronous, real-time instructional experience with pre-recorded asynchronous lectures typically designed to deliver didactic material that can be viewed when convenient. Doing so allows faculty to provide the background for more in-depth and interactive discussion during the real-time, synchronous sessions. 

In addition to our excellent online and virtual course technologies, the Plus in Virtual Plus affirms our commitment to offer a full array of opportunities for students and faculty to connect both inside and outside the classroom. These activities, all available online, include: 

  • A robust program of daily seminars and special events
  • Applied practice activities that bring students to the frontlines of public health
  • Individual and group mentoring and professional development sessions
  • Participation in student-led groups and activities
  • Student research opportunities in collaboration with faculty
  • Connecting with alumni from around the world and with experts in your chosen area of study
  • Opportunities to network with other students, faculty, and public health leaders
  • All services and supports normally provided for our students, including academic advising, career planning and life design, health and wellness counseling, library resources, and information technology support.

Each of you will receive information from your program on your specific curriculum requirements and assistance in developing your individual Virtual Plus plan. 

Given the commitment to a Virtual Plus Campus, should I move to Baltimore? 

We encourage you to talk with your program director and other students in your cohort to determine whether (or when) you should move to Baltimore. You must take into account your personal preferences and individual circumstances, considering your own health and the health of people close to you, your current location and living situation, family needs, and financial situation. The decision must be yours individually, but we are here to help you think through the options. This is what we can tell you: 

  • If you decide to not move to Baltimore this fall, you will not miss out on the core experience of a Bloomberg School education. We are fully dedicated to our Virtual Plus Campus and will work closely with you to offer everything that was available face-to-face before we were challenged by the realities of the pandemic.
  • For those of you already in Baltimore or who wish to move to Baltimore this fall, there may be opportunities for you to interact with each other and with our faculty but only in small groups, and only in spaces that adhere to strict University guidelines for mitigating the spread of the virus. Keep in mind, however, that with today’s technology, a virtual one-on-one with your advisor or with a study group via Zoom can be just as effective—without masks or physical distancing!
  • For those of you who wish to move to Baltimore this fall, most leasing offices are still open, offering virtual tours and processing applications online. Students should be prepared with a budget, desired location, and optimal start date before starting this process. Please keep in mind that flexibility will be key when looking to secure housing sooner rather than later. To get an idea of what properties are available in the area, see the University Off-Campus Housing Office website. (If you are considering a move to Baltimore later in the term, such as in January, this page also has resources regarding potential short-term leases.) Those who are already a part of the Hopkins system may log into this resource with their JHED ID. Guests may access the site by clicking Sign Up in the upper right-hand corner. On the next page, choose Guest. A password will be requested. Enter: EAPoe1809.

Our Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Virtual Plus Campus offers an exciting, engaging experience that will fully prepare you for the public health challenges we are facing now and in the future. 

There has never been a more meaningful time to study public health, and we look forward to welcoming you to our Bloomberg School community. Together we can make a difference in creating a healthier future—from anywhere in the world! 

With best wishes to you and those close to you, 


Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75 
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor