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  • Writer's pictureValentin Vassilev

5 Scenarios for the Start of the Fall Semester

Learning will be different for the millions of students in higher education.

How will universities reopen in the fall semester? It’s a big question for students, families, and the schools themselves.

While much is still unknown, it is certain that life and learning will be different. NPR has summarised some of the options currently being discussed.

Completely online, but not exclusively from home

Some institutions indicated that they are open to resuming classes online in the fall. California State University, the largest four-year public university system in the US, said that classes at its 23 campuses would be conducted almost exclusively online. IE Business School (Spain) announced that the semester could start either face-to-face or online, depending on the severity of the pandemic.

Virtual instruction does not necessarily mean that students should learn at home. There is the possibility of allowing students on campus so they can use the school’s Wi-Fi to take online classes.

Delayed start

Pushing back the start of programmes is another option for resuming classes. So far, very few schools have announced such plans. The idea of delaying the start of the fall semester to January has been criticised by some industry experts who point to the high financial cost for universities and the damage to the students’ educational progress.

Hybrid learning

This option combines virtual and in-person classes. It could be adopted by schools that don’t have enough classrooms and space to meet social distancing requirements.

"You might have some of the larger classes being taught online simply because it's harder to imagine a 150- or 350-person classroom. So you might see that class split up into multiple sections," Edward J. Maloney, who leads the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship at Georgetown University (US), told NPR.

Selection of students on campus

Another possible alternative involves bringing only some students to campus, while the rest take classes online or start later. For instance, universities could allow only freshmen to reside on campus as they need to adapt to the new environment, while senior students, already familiar with how campus and classes work, can stay at home and take classes remotely.

Another possible solution would be to let those who have housing needs to return to campus first and then gradually allow the rest to return.

New style of campus life

Campus life, as we know it, will certainly change, at least until the outbreak is brought under control. It's unlikely that students will be able to sit together in big numbers in lecture halls and dining rooms. Big events are also out of the question. Social distancing and sanitising measures are expected to be implemented everywhere, which will change life not only in classrooms but also in dorms. Universities will be prompted to rethink all facets of academic life to ensure the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff.

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