The Plan to Safely Reopen Campuses After a Pandemic

1 July 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has left higher-education leaders facing difficult decisions on when to reopen campuses and how to go about it. Although it may be easier for institutions to hold classes solely online, campuses and personal interactions are viewed as essential elements of learning and key parts of the college experience. Because of this, many institutions are planning a hybrid learning model to incorporate both the safety of virtual learning while preserving the experience of face-to-face courses. For others, the decision to have the majority of instruction in the virtual format remains the safest option.  The following article explains some of the options currently in consideration by various higher-education leaders.

Strategy #1: The Switch
Changing the academic calendar has been a popular option for administrators who are planning to reopen campuses. Many institutions are planning for a Fall semester that either ends or goes online by Thanksgiving. Sending students home early can help avoid the expected second wave of Coronavirus cases as predicted by some experts. The idea is to begin the Fall term a bit earlier in August and end it at the break in late November. Many institutions want to also cancel the Fall break that usually occurs in mid-October to prevent students from returning to campus after traveling for the break.

Strategy #2: The Spread of the School Year
Another proposed plan is to expand the normal school terms over the course of the entire year as a way to make classes and campuses less crowded. The objective is that in addition to beginning and ending the Fall semester early, universities will spread instruction over four semesters instead of three. Only about half of students will be allowed on campus in the Fall and students who are permitted on campus will switch with their peers in each alternative semester.

Strategy #3: Mixed Flex Instruction
Some of the colleges want to offer the best of both worlds where the semester starts with in-person instruction but switches to virtual soon after.  The goal of this is to allow the students to know each other and their professor in person, which will make it easier to continue their connections once they switch to virtual classes.  For safety, the in-person class will be split into 3 sections that come in at different times to help maintain social distancing.  The professor will decide how many in-person classes to conduct and even when to conduct these classes.

Strategy #4: Staying Virtual
Among the new reopening plans, a few institutions have said they are expecting to be mostly online in the Fall. Universities have started planning for the worst thus holding off the transition to in-person courses until the spread of COVID-19 has minimized. There will be limited exceptions for in-person teaching and learning activities that cannot be delivered virtually. These activities will only take place if they are indispensable and they will be conducted using rigorous standards for safety.

What approach is your institution taking for the Fall semester?  Let us know in the comments below.

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