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Back to School: Class Planning and Campus Health

As schools, colleges, and universities around the world open their virtual and physical classrooms and campuses, administrators are asking the question: “How are we going to make this semester work for our students, faculty, staff, and IT teams?”

by / September 8, 2020
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It’s time for back to school.

As schools, colleges, and universities around the world open their virtual and physical classrooms and campuses, administrators are asking the question: “How are we going to make this semester work for our students, faculty, staff, and IT teams?”

Cisco recently partnered with EDUCAUSE for two QuickPoll surveys that sought to uncover the ways that education institutions – particularly colleges and universities – are using technology to prepare for the fall semester. Here’s what the research discovered.

Supporting Campus Health

What role does the institution play in providing care and promoting health across the campus? As institutions approach and adapt to the evolving pandemic landscape, it is critical to enable health management systems with technology, minimizing risk and ensuring the availability of stakeholder health services.

Of on-campus technology investments, institutions focused heavily on health screening, workplace safety management, and surveys about student, faculty, and staff readiness to return to campus. Fewer institutions were investing in location tracking and physical distance monitoring.

The biggest challenges across the board are common: a lack of clarity to the desired outcomes for technology investments, technical deployment challenges to hybrid learning and new IT investments, and above all, a sense of uncertainty clouding the planning and deployment process.

As many schools take off into their fall semesters and the rest approach the starting line, conversations surrounding the connection between physical and virtual spaces are expanding and evolving. The campus is no longer a purely physical entity: students and professors will be engaging with the campus, classes, and services through online platforms. Not only are schools building a historically unparalleled digital infrastructure, but they also need to emphasize safety and health on campus.

At the time of this survey, 76% of institutions planned to offer hybrid courses. Of services transitioned online, the most seamless have been faculty office hours, IT support, and human resources. Services that have required more effort to update and transition in the pandemic landscape are: labs, student food and housing support, and student co-curricular activities. For classes, asynchronous solutions are the primary distribution method, with synchronous solutions taking a backseat. Most institutions (70%) plan to offer the ability to download and/or stream recorded classroom sessions, while around half of responding institutions plan to livestream classes, video captured classes, or integrate microphones and speakers. In physical spaces, institutions are prioritizing videoconferencing, and secondarily space utilization, over tools like location tracking, automation, guest services, or wayfinding.

While this can be seen as a time for digital transformation, many universities are still in reaction and response mode. However, the solutions invested in during this period can lead to positive long-term change. Investment in hybrid environments will empower new forms of education in years to come and allow educators to discover new ways of teaching. The primary challenges? Staffing and financing, rushed solutions, and uncertainty for the future.

The road ahead may seem long, but as higher education knows well, we create the future today – with every student we educate, educator we enable, and system we invest in.

How is your institution preparing for this semester? What investments have you made in health and the hybrid classroom? Tell us in the comments section below. in the meantime, explore how Cisco is transforming education.

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