The lockdown of schools to confront the effects of COVID-19 caused an enormous impact at both societal and educational levels. Over the past weeks, education officials have been forced to cancel classes and close the doors to campuses across the world in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.
In addition, US institutions have switched classes to online learning, cancelled spring break trips and students studying abroad in China, Italy, and South Korea have been encouraged to return home to complete their studies.
While class closures, dips in enrollment at the beginning of a new semester, and cancellations may be temporary, it’s hard to foresee whether the novel coronavirus will result in long-term disruption to the higher education system.
Understanding the economic impact of Lockdown
One of the biggest concerns for the sector at large is the percentage of international students that make up the domestic higher education markets. In the US alone, Chinese students make up 33.7 percent of the foreign student population, while Indian students comprise of 18.4 percent.
While travel restrictions to and from China have been helpful in slowing down the spread of the disease, they have also left international students stranded. According to a Covid-19 Survey by the Institute of International Education (IIE), 830 Chinese students have been unable to return to the US to continue their studies. While this may be a small percentage of the overall international student population, the question remains: How long will this last? If the lockdown restrictions remain in place, the US higher education system could bear the brunt of an economic downturn.
So, how should universities and colleges around the world adjust their learning styles to retain program enrollment and provide accessibility to students?
Maximize online learning
The most effective tool in keeping student retention and maintaining access to learning has been online courses. Universities across the US, in particular, have adjusted their programs in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
Stanford University has called off the remaining two weeks of in-class lectures. They are urging their professors to move any remaining lessons online. The University of Washington ban on-campus classes until after spring break after a member of staff got the coronavirus. Other universities, including Hofstra University, New Jersey’s Princeton University, and Seattle University are making the move to virtual classes.
Develop robust systems
While the majority of colleges and universities integrate online education into their coursework, moving all programs online may prove challenging. While some universities may already have strong online systems, smaller universities may struggle under the weight of the demand. University course creators should work closely with their IT departments to ensure their programs are online.
One such university that is currently undertaking these measures is the University of Southern California. They are testing its online platforms to ensure its technology can handle its 7,000 plus lectures.
Educate students on best practices
With online learning the way to go, universities should also ensure students and staff have full protection while on campus.
While Covid-19 is a high risk for those over 60, traditional-aged university students face relatively low risks from the disease. However, recently, we have seen just how quickly the novel coronavirus can spread in areas with many people. University campuses are no exception.
Administrators should undertake simple measures to prevent the spread of the disease on their campuses. This should include instructing students on the appropriate protocols. Handwashing, covering sneezes and coughs with their elbows, and self-isolating if they are experiencing flu or cold-like symptoms.
Educators should also be aware of students who travel extensively during spring break. They should remind those who have been abroad in heavily affected places to be mindful about returning to campus.