Fewer students would enrol for a fully online term, so universities plan a partial reopening, a recent survey shows.
A growing number of UK universities are choosing blended learning as the optimal solution for the coming term. Taking into account student preferences as well as Covid-19 concerns, university leaders plan to pair on-campus activities with online classes. Strict safety measures are needed to make this possible.
Lectures are the part of instruction most likely to turn digital, as they are comparatively well-suited to online delivery. This type of class is also the largest, so making it remote goes a long way towards creating a socially distant campus.
The University of Cambridge and the University of Exeter, among others, are implementing this change, according to a survey by Times Higher Education (THE). Most respondents are introducing some kind of “hybrid approach” this autumn, even if they have not yet specified which parts of tuition would move online.
Blended learning with in-person sessions
No institutions are planning a fully online term, according to THE. This is due to concerns that many students would defer their studies rather than enrol remotely. Thus, digitisation will go hand-in-hand with in-person classes that are both interactive and socially distant.
Cambridge is offering optional study sessions on campus, for example, while the universities of Exeter and Manchester would allow lab-based work to proceed. Hands-on experience is essential for practical courses, hence these are the most likely to resume in person.
Face-to-face learning will take place under special safety measures. Social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) will be the norm. In addition, universities are reconsidering class schedules. For example, at Exeter, students might have access to their labs only during certain parts of the day or week. And at the University of Manchester, students may cohabit with other members of their course so that they can study as a group even if they need to self-isolate.
The trends are clear: while no schools are going fully remote, in-person classes will not be the same. They will be possible only with careful planning and the introduction of new safety measures.