This is changing daily, but as I write this, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 53% of colleges are planning on re-opening this fall with on campus classes. While 32% will offer a hybrid of online and in-person classes and 11% will offer on-line only. The rest are still deciding.
How Some Colleges are Re-Opening
Here are some examples of different ways colleges are re-opening; Cornell University is bringing students back on campus and offering a combination of online and in-person classes. They studied the safety issues and reasoned that many students will come back and live on campus or in town, for social reasons, regardless of Cornell’s policy. Through regular pool (also known as ‘batch’) testing and then quarantining students who test positive, and having other safety measures in place, they are better able to control the situation, than by closing the campus and having students live in town anyway.
The University of Virginia is providing home test kits to students and requiring students to submit their negative test results within a week of returning to campus. And their students must also complete a Covid-19 education module before they arrive back on campus.
How Pool Testing Works
Pool or batch testing, is how Wuhan, China was able to test 6.5M people in ten days. Just approved in the U.S., pool testing combines samples from a group of say, five people and tests them together. If the pooled sample tests positive, then the individuals are each tested again to determine who is positive. Pool testing allows for large groups of low-risk individuals to be quickly and cheaply tested, and colleges are likely to use this method.
Students Want to Return to Campus
Bottom line; many students will come back to live in their college town, regardless of whether classes are online or not. Colleges, like Cornell, above, are acknowledging that, and setting up testing and other safety protocols.
Online Learning is Usually an Inferior Experience
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, a recent survey of students by Top Hat, an education technology company revealed that ‘80 percent of respondents said their online courses lacked the engagement of in-person classes. Half said online was worse than face-to-face instruction; 16 percent said it was a lot worse.’
Some schools are using a hybrid approach, where lectures are given live, but are also filmed and streamed to students who don’t want to sit in class. This will allow colleges to limit the numbers of students in class so they can socially distance, while making classes available to all. But this type of approach requires high investments in cameras and microphones and still doesn’t deliver a high-quality experience to all.
Colleges are completely re-organizing on-campus foodservice. Foodservice companies like Sodexo are using robots, essentially coolers on wheels, to deliver meals to students wherever they may be on campus. This will help lessen the number of students crowding into dining halls. Some campuses like Amherst, MA, are setting up outdoor tents to serve students outdoors. And all self-serve dining options have been eliminated. Read our blog post about College and University Foodservice here.
How Businesses can Help
Colleges are all grappling with ways to deliver their educational services in a Covid environment this fall, and may need to do so in 2021 as well. There are many opportunities for innovative suppliers and vendors of all types to provide products and services that help campuses solve some of these issues.
These range from indoor air sanitizers, to makers of plexiglass safety screens and dividers. To makers of PPE like masks and gloves to sanitizing products of all types. It also includes the makers of labor-saving devices like the delivery robots mentioned above and other robotic equipment that helps safer food prep. And also, makers of audio-visual equipment and software programs to improve online learning.
The $500B higher education market is not going away; every year 20M students are enrolled in colleges of all types in the U.S. And Covid-19 won’t stop this. The current situation is, rather, accelerating innovation in how to deliver education in new, and hopefully improved ways. And businesses of all types can support and drive this innovation.
To learn more about how to sell to the college market, read our blog post
‘Selling Products and Services to Colleges and Universities’. And if you need further resources or help, contact us here.