Will online learning keep some students away?

One university in Texas may hold some in-person classes next week

The potential for college and university campuses to remain closed in fall 2020 in favor of online learning could mean a significant number of current and potential students choose not to attend, according to one report.

The National Society of High School Scholars found that 32% of 2,000 of the current and incoming college students surveyed might not show up in the fall if continued coronavirus concerns mean classes are only offered virtually, Newsweek reported.

However, 53% of the students who preferred being in a classroom said they could adjust to online learning. And 94% remained optimistic about getting a degree, with 86% expecting to graduate on time, according to Newsweek.

“I do think that students will be more willing to consider some combination of in-person and virtual learning in the future,” the society’s president, James Lewis, told Newsweek. “Students may complain about the things they are missing, but I am confident that they will make the best of the situation.”

Plans for in-person classes

At the University of South Carolina, in-person classes will resume on Aug. 20 and continue through Thanksgiving break.

“While fall semester will include face-to-face instruction, it should be noted that a portion of courses already scheduled to be delivered face-to-face and for which many students are already registered will need to be switched over the summer to online for the safety of students and their instructors,” President Bob Caslen has announced in a message to campus.

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The university plans to go fully online for the remainder of the semester in December, when another spike in coronavirus cases is expected to coincide with flu season, Caslen said.

Across the country, planning for fall 2020 is compelling college leaders to look at new models of instruction that provide plenty of flexibility.

Roger Williams University in Rhode Island has designed a hybrid curriculum that will allow students—whether they return to campus or stay home in fall 2020–to engage in a blend of face-to-face and online instruction, President Ioannis Miaoulis told University Business.

“One of the positive side effects of this terrible situation is it forces us to think outside of the box and put students first and see things from students’ point of view rather than what we as an institution want to do,” Miaoulis says.

Students, wherever they are, will also be able to earn credits for volunteer work, internships and professional experiences, Miaoulis said.

How colleges may reopen

In Texas, several institutions in the eastern part of the state have begun planning to reopen. Leaders at LeTourneau University are preparing to hold some in-person classes next week, the Longview News-Journal reported.

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The university expects dorms and classrooms to open on Aug. 24.

“We are planning on carefully phasing in in-person courses in compliance with state and local guidelines and according to all the health and safety protocols recommended by health officials,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Mason told the newspaper. “In aviation, for example, we are hoping to begin in-person training and coursework as early as Monday, May 26, and we are diligently preparing for that.”

East Texas Baptist University will disinfect classrooms during as it prepares to for the return of students and staff, who may be required to wear masks, according to the Longview News-Journal reported.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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