With the fall semester well underway, colleges and universities across the country have been hoping to keep COVID infection rates to a minimum. However, despite rigorous viral testing regimens, intensive sanitizing, and drastic reductions in student presence, infection rates are climbing. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville reported that the number of positive cases on campus has tripled since the semester began. Foreshadowing the future for similar institutions, UTK has also announced that spring 2021 will look much like the current semester – largely virtual.
Major universities, including the entire California State University system, have already gone all-remote for fall, and while they have allowed a reduced population of students back on campus with strict safety precautions in place, CSU Long Beach has already reported more than double the number of positive COVID tests in just one month. Although CSU has not yet made an announcement, it is anticipated that the entire system will remain virtual for the balance of the school year.
“Hybrid programs, featuring a combination of virtual and hands-on instruction, are predicted to become standard offerings throughout the country. Even for students living on campus, the population of residence halls is being reduced to roughly 60% capacity, and most classes will be taught remotely.”
Other institutions, including Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Texas San Antonio, have proactively announced plans to limit the number of students on campus by providing total online instruction for academic courses that don’t require hands-on experience. “Flexible instructional modes” seem to be the current slogan for a higher learning curriculum. Disciplines that require experiential instruction, such as the sciences, medicine, agriculture, engineering/mechanics, etc., will see smaller class sizes with social distancing requirements. Hybrid programs, featuring a combination of virtual and hands-on instruction, are predicted to become standard offerings throughout the country. Even for students living on campus, the population of residence halls is being reduced to roughly 60% capacity, and most classes will be taught remotely. Campus “density” has also been significantly decreased, with many employees still working from home.
Most institutions are holding off making definitive declarations about the spring semester until the last possible moment, but administrators have reluctantly conceded that campus life will continue to be curtailed for the foreseeable future.