The Educational Landscape In 2021

Published on: December 23, 2020

One of the major reasons why many students opt for enrollment in colleges or universities instead of online learning is the in-person experience. However, this is something that is increasingly falling by the wayside due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This is not just a major problem for students, but also for colleges and universities that have spent millions on facilities to attract new learners. For example, Boston University invested $141 million in a data-science center with 350,000 square feet of space. It is due for completion in 2022, but understandably all plans for new facilities are now on hold. Other universities face similar issues and many American educational institutions have come to rely on international students enrolling, which is something the pandemic disrupted in a big way.

An initiative by Davidson College, called The College Crisis Initiative or C2i was created to learn how colleges and universities could innovate in a crisis mindset. They are collecting data on the ways and means that higher education institutions are dealing with the pandemic. Thanks to their Covid-19 data dashboard, which is also available to the public, information is available about the reopening plans of colleges and universities. Their information indicated that out of the nearly 3000 colleges, community colleges, and universities in the United States, 301 opted to go fully online during Fall 2020. A further 1001 went primarily online while 622 opted for a hybrid approach. Although 681 taught primarily in person, only 114 decided that it was safe enough for classes to be taught fully in person. For the full dashboard and their reopening status, visit the official College Crisis Initiative at https://collegecrisis.shinyapps.io/dashboard/.

Some universities have taken matters into their own hands when it comes to health and safety on campus. For example, in August of last year, officials from the University of Arizona said that they were able to prevent a sizable outbreak of Covid-19 on campus. The method that they employed was to regularly screen sewage from the dorms in search of traces of the virus. A positive wastewater sample from one dorm saw the school quickly take action by testing the more than 300 people living and working there, which enabled them to find two students who tested positive. These students were asymptomatic but were quickly quarantined to prevent an outbreak. Other universities, such as Syracuse University and the University of California at San Diego are employing similar methods to battle potential outbreaks. However, despite the strict measures in place, many university officials have admitted that infections are inevitable and that it is important to focus on preventing big spikes that could overwhelm their facilities to continue testing and isolating those who are positive. Of course, even with the most stringent preventative measures in place, there will always be the issue of willful noncompliance by some students who refrain from following proper procedures when tested positive for Covid-19.

One thing is for sure, the education landscape will be completely changed by the pandemic and educational institutions will have to adapt in order to continue functioning. It will be a big adjustment for students as well, particularly if the social aspects of colleges and universities played a big role in their enrollment decisions. The continued uncertainty and anxiety around the pandemic is also something that could have a lasting impact on students. Studies have already shown that the median percentile rank for some subjects is measurably lower than before the pandemic, which is worrying. It's still too early to really determine what the short-term and long-term impact of Covid-19 will be as both students and educators adapt to online learning, but suffice to say that change is inevitable in the education landscape.

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