While COVID-19 cases surge across the nation, the question remains of how colleges and universities will ultimately be able to navigate the approaching fall semester. How will instruction mediums impact student learning, success, and safety? How will circumstances affect quintessential members of the higher education community like international students? The Fall 2020 semester will likely look different for every student, depending on personal and institutional choices made due to location, finances, health, and more. No matter your student’s situation, understanding the trends and wider decisions being made in the higher education space are vital to ensuring you and your student are informed to succeed.
Re-opening plans. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s current analysis of over 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities indicates that 53% of institutions plan to resume a version of in-person instruction for the fall, while 32% hope to offer a hybrid education model. Though varied from school to school, by re-opening campuses to any degree, many of the institutions planning to use either instruction plan will be adopting new, strict standards of residential life, sanitation, and health and safety protocols. Many will implement measures like restricting campus residences to single-person rooms, requiring face coverings in all indoor spaces, and limiting class sizes to adhere to social-distancing protocols. Those under hybrid models will offer combinations of in-person and online instruction, some restricting student options for specific courses or disciplines, and others alternating instruction types throughout the semester.
“Colleges’ Plans for Reopening in the Fall.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Accessed 20 July 2020.
For students with the option of whether to return to campus or engage in a fully virtual semester, we encourage you to evaluate each alternative comprehensively. Consider things like financial practicality, personal safety, and mental and physical health. After all, if your student’s overall personal wellbeing is compromised, due to the potential impacts on areas like nutrition or sleep habits, this can limit learning capabilities and academic outcomes. Though neither option may seem ideal, help your student consider the environment in which they learn best. Are they equally engaged and active in online lessons? If not, what changes can they make to build a designated study environment, and enhance skills of organization and academic planning to better prepare for the fall?
Student responsibility. No matter which instruction model your student engages in this fall, a majority of the educational burden will likely fall to them. Despite extensive and well-intentioned efforts, unprecedented and rapid learning shifts will likely still leave many institutions and educators behind in adjusting to virtual learning environments or handling such wide variations in instruction options. This places much of the weight on students to maintain organization, proactively communicate with teachers and professors, and bring an engaged, attentive mind to each lesson. Now more than ever, cultivating a productive learning experience will be a collaborative effort between students and educators. For those repopulating campuses, the responsibilities extend beyond the classroom. Following social distancing and other protective measures in place to prevent infections within the campus population will be vital to ensuring a safe and productive learning experience for all students throughout the semester.
International students. These same issues of safety and productive learning are of top concern for international students questioning their return to U.S. institutions amid mass uncertainty in the virus’s spread and institutions’ fluctuating plans, despite the rescission of ICE policies restricting international students from attending schools offering online-only instruction. A recent study by the SERU Consortium found that the top concerns for international students lie in difficulties maintaining good health and managing immigration status. Typically attracting over 1.1 million international students each year, surveys indicate that the U.S. may see drops of at least 25% in enrollment from these student populations. These shifts will bring additional disruptions and changes not only in education accessibility, but also to the inherent value and landscape of higher education’s student bodies as international students offer our classrooms a unique breadth of knowledge, perspectives, and ideas.
Maintain awareness. While the coming semester will certainly look different and vary from student to student, maintaining awareness of student learning options, guidelines, and best practices for an engaged school year, effective and enriching semesters can still take place. For additional guidance and academic support during this transition, stay up to date with us and contact us to learn more how our services can help your student remain on a path to success.