Education across the world is changing drastically with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting every part of our daily lives. Pre-school children to Ph.D. candidates are going to see a different education this fall than they have ever experienced in the past. It is paramount for all those who will be affected to be as prepared and as aware of these changes from the beginning.
Hybrid or Fully Online Courses
Although some universities throughout the country are attempting to have all courses run completely face-to-face, the majority of graduate students can expect to find their fall courses either fully online or in a hybrid format. Hybrid formats occur when part of the course is online and part meets face-to-face. Even in the hybrid format, the face-to-face session may look different. Universities and colleges have to accommodate and respond to the constant changes and recommendations by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Face-to-face sessions will be met with social distancing rules, mask requirements, and COVID-19 questionnaires to ensure the safety of all students and professors. When courses run fully online, professors will choose to do them in a synchronous or asynchronous manner. When professors choose to do courses synchronously, students will have to log in at the same time on the same day every week.
On the other hand, when professors choose to teach in an asynchronous way, they will post videos, PowerPoints, and assignments at the beginning of each week and will have assignments due at the end of the week. When courses are taught in an asynchronous way, students must be vigilant in completing the assignments on time. Waiting until the last minute to complete and submit assignments can back fire if a student were to run into technological problems.
Furthermore, universities may switch from hybrid to fully online during the semester. Some universities have already stated that students will not be returning to campus after Thanksgiving break and will be completing the semester fully online at that point, including final exams. With federal and state regulations, universities may have to change from hybrid to fully online at any point of the semester due to COVID-19 case increases in their area.
Throughout the summer, faculty have been participating in workshops and trainings to better their online teaching presence and skills. Universities want their faculty to be able to engage their students at the highest level even if courses are fully online. Students may see their professors using Zoom, Google Hangout, Flipgrid and many other online platforms. Graduate students will want to take the time to learn about the newest methods that their professors may be using. Once you are given your syllabus, investigate the LMS (learning management system) that you will be expected to use. Common LMSs are Moodle and Brightspace D2L.
No matter which system your university is using, take the time to learn all of the aspects of it so that you can fully engage in the course. Reach out to tech support at your school if you run into any problems or obstacles. It is very important to not let technological challenges impede your grade and participation in a course.
Reduced Access to On-Campus Resources
All universities may have different restrictions to on-campus resources. Therefore, students need to check their individual schools. However, students can expect to see restrictions throughout campus. Social distancing rules and capacity reductions are going to change how students operate on campus. The library, science labs, and tutoring centers may have reduced hours and could be by appointment only. Be proactive and find out when you will need access to these areas and make an appointment if necessary.
It may be easier for students to order their books online through their university’s bookstore website than waiting in line to get into the actual store. Student engagement activities may also be by reservation only. If you know of a conference, workshop, or activity that you want to participate, be the first to reserve your spot; otherwise, you will have to participate through a virtual session.
Internships/Field Placements/Student Teaching
Being out in the field is so important to many different degrees. Whether you are studying to become a teacher or a nurse, one must be able to have the real life experience which are required for various certifications. Universities are working with their local placements to be sure that university safety protocols are also in place where a student may have their internship or student teaching. CDC guidelines and state guidelines may impact which students will be required to still go out into the field during the COVID-19 crisis.
Be Ready for Change
No matter how much planning higher education institutes are doing to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, changes will continue to occur frequently. Students have to be in constant contact with their professors and be checking emails and the school’s website to see what new regulations may be implemented throughout the semester. It is of utmost importance for universities to keep their students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy during this crisis. Everyone on campus or learning virtually has to do their part to follow the guidelines and recommendations given by their university.