2020 Back to School or… Not in Higher Ed?
Does it feel like March all over again?
While there’s nothing spring-ish about the hot days of summer in North America right now, the indecision and the trickling of closing (or postponed reopening) announcements have brought a feeling of deja-vu these past few days.
With the increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations, a change in rhetoric about face masks in the White House and the multiplication of announcements in higher education about back-to-school that won’t happen on campus after all (Dickinson College, Occidental College, Rhodes College, UC-Berkeley, Spelman, Morehouse, Grinnell, Miami Dade, The University of Southern California and Pomona College among others), it’s very difficult to be sure of anything.
Yet, less than 2% of the respondents in my July 15 “minute-poll” (the first 3-question survey of my Wednesday email newsletter readers) worked for a school planning an 100% online Fall semester for students.
I have a bit more detailed information about the breakdown between the other options, but to increase the sample size of these weekly reader surveys, I’m only sharing the results with participants. So, if you’re interested in getting weekly fresh data updates on the state of the higher ed digital marketing, communication, web and social media community, subscribe to the newsletter and participate in these polls!
With a 16% survey response rate, this result is representative of the close to 500 readers who opened my email newsletter last week. While it would be a big stretch to extend it to the entire population of higher ed institutions, it’s aligned with the data from the College in Crisis (C2i) Fall 2020 Dashboard, created by Davidson College researchers and indicating that most colleges and universities in the US are still working on welcoming back students on campus.
And, this shouldn’t be any surprise. According to several student surveys conducted since the start of the pandemic, the online option isn’t what most students *wanted* to sign up for this Fall. Concerns that all classes will continue to be held online was cited as a top reason by 71% of the undergraduate students unsure or not re-enrolling. This group represented 10% of the 19,155 surveyed at 5 public research universities by Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium as shown in this June 2020 SERU survey report (PDF).
9 Higher Ed Fall Plan Websites
Since most institutions are still planning for an on-campus back-to-school as of this past week, I’ve decided to include below a short selection of the details and web pages about campus back-to-school plans shared by 9 readers of my higher ed marketing email weekly newsletter.
Bluffton University (Bluffton, Ohio) – COVID-19 Return to campus plan
The plan includes daily personal monitoring with students reporting on the intranet, social distancing rules including mandatory masks indoors (except when alone in an office or a dorm room). Bluffton has also created a Green, Yellow and Red Color Alert System for Campus, “Protect the Dam,” to better communicate specific guidelines for personal reporting, facial coverings, social distancing in different campus spots, visitors & travel, campus events as well as cleaning and sanitation procedures depending on the COVID-19 situation.
College of Charleston (Charleston, SC) – Back on the Bricks Plan for Fall 2020
The Fall 2020 semester at the College of Charleston will be a hybrid of in-person and online classes with social distancing (contingency plans are also in the works if the situation were to worsen in South Carolina). Students can be all online if they choose. Everyone will have to wear a mask on campus.
COFC “Back on the Bricks” plan is presented in a video from the President and features a comprehensive collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the dedicated website but also in an Instagram Highlight. These FAQs are organized in several categories.
Bellevue University (Bellevue, Nebraska) – Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information and Resources.
Very similar guidelines at Bellevue University where physical distancing measures will be in place as face-to-face classes resume. Updates will be shared on the website and follow public health directives. Starting August 1st, masks will be required for all students, employees and visitors while on campus.
St Anselm College (Manchester, New Hampshire) – COVID-19 Reponse
Saint Anselm College made a decision in early June to reopen in the fall. Reopening Progress updates are shared on a dedicated website. The social media accounts of the college are used to alert everybody when an update is published (the latest update from President Favazza -at the time of this writing – was published July 20)
Rowan College South Jersey (Gloucester & Cumberland, New Jersey) – Return to RCSJ
At Rowan College, only a few labs will be offered on campus for specific programs where hands-on practice isn’t an option. All other classes that were originally slated for face -to -face will be synchronous online. Regular online classes will stay in their asynchronous format. Between hybrid, live online and asynchronous online, students will have options to learn safely.
Boise State University (Boise, Idaho) – Return to Campus
Boise State has created a dedicated website to present its back-to-school plans on campus offering a combo of in-person, online and hybrid courses. Bright, crisp and visually branded, the site offers a somehow more engaging outlook with visuals featuring students proudly wearing masks. The Reintegration Guide linked from there offers a list of updates and detailed guidelines.
Roanoke College (Salem, Virginia) Return to Roanoke
At Roanoke, all the information pertaining to the back-to-school plans is gathered on a dedicated website featuring the latest updates, guides, a daily health assessment check-in and the mascot proudly wearing a mask.
Midwestern University (Downers Grove, IL & Glendale, AZ) – Return to Campus Plan
At Midwestern, an institution focusing on the training of healthcare professionals, the “Return to Campus” website has also been complemented by a #MaskUpMidwestern social campaign, lots of email communications with students and several administrative subcommittees working on logistics (plexiglas, distancing stickers, scheduling in cohorts, hybrid online/live classes, etc).
University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) – UTogether2020
Most students will be learning online, but most classes are also being offered in person. The UTogether 2020 website offers quick access to updates, resources for students and faculty/staff as well as a comprehensive and regularly updated FAQ section.
If you’ve seen something interesting done by another school, feel free to post the highlights and a link as a comment at the bottom of this post.
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