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Two out of five US college presidents already considering online options for Fall 2020 term
Update 4/9: See follow-on post by Kevin Kelly with recommendations on how to deal with spring/summer and fall transitions. Traversing the Edge of Chaos: Phase 1 and 2 preparations for post COVID-19 world
The Chronicle of Higher Education described a recent survey from AAC&U and ABC Insights of US college presidents (285 surveyed, 142 responses, held late March) about their institution’s expectations on the impacts of COVID-19. In the survey, a majority of presidents expressed optimism about returning to a ‘new normal’ with face-to-face classes by the Fall 2020 term.
Even with the small sample sizes, this finding is quite similar to another survey by Inside Higher Education and Hanover Research of college presidents (172 responses, held March 17-19). In that case 58% of presidents expected to resume in-person classes by Fall 2020, with 41% uncertain when this would occur.
My initial reaction was cynical, saying that three in five of US college presidents are delusional. In my survey this week (1 response, held Tuesday evening) I described a four-phase response of higher education to COVID-19, arguing that the Fall 2020 term would be continued turmoil.
Upon reflection, however, I think there is another way to interpret the two survey findings since both were held in late March. The first shelter-in-place order was made in California on March 20th – after the IHE survey – and now most of the country is on some form of lockdown. Initial estimates of these lockdowns were thought to end in early April, but now most estimate the end as the first week of May at the earliest. A lot has changed in just the past two weeks.
Another reason for a different interpretation is that in-person and online education are not binary choices. Individual institutions may resume in-person classes in some cases (e.g. small course sections) but not others (e.g. large lecture classes), or they may start face-to-face and then change to online, or vice virsa. There are several hybrid alternatives possible that might mix a resumption of some in-person classes and a continuation of many remote classes.
What I would describe is that as early as late March, two out of five US college presidents were already considering a scenario where a return of most in-person classes might not be feasible for the Fall 2020 term. It is likely that this number is even higher today, perhaps with most presidents considering remote learning or online education options for their institutions in the fall.
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