Coronavirus has changed the way that we all function, though it remains to be seen for how long. Many states and countries around the world are beginning the process of reopening various industries, such as restaurants, stores, and salons. One major area currently planning to open this fall are colleges.
To many students across the nation, this is a relief. No more struggling with online classes, Zoom meetings that always freeze, or seeing no one for months on end. What does a post pandemic college environment look like?
Universities across America are slowly beginning to reveal their plans for reopening in the fall. Plans are still unfolding and are subject to change throughout the summer, but many schools have announced that they are planning to reopen in phases. A major part of these phases is holding both in-person and remote classes. Many of the top universities with this plan, such as New York University, Brown University, and Stanford University, are giving students the options of either attending in-person lectures or remaining in remote learning environments.
Other universities, like MIT, Columbia University, and Princeton University have said that they will be open in the fall, but they have yet to announce exactly what their semesters will look like. With all of the uncertainty surrounding how colleges will operate in the coming semester, what could the college experience look like for students?
Regarding classes, there are a few potential outcomes. One of the more likely options is that we will all be wearing masks. Another is that classrooms will be rearranged to accommodate social distancing. If this is the case, how will this affect student learning? Masks can prove to be complicated when it comes to talking or breathing. It might be a tad distracting watching a professor try and mumble their way through a lecture behind a mask.
Rearranging classrooms for social distancing purposes could also prove challenging. Spacing out students, especially in universities with smaller classrooms, could lead to a decrease in the number of students allowed in each class. Through this method, some students might be required to do their classes online again this fall.
Many colleges are planning on having a shortened semester. By eliminating the Labor Day holiday and fall break, students will be finished with classes by Thanksgiving break and will take their exams online at home. This eliminates the need for students to come back to campus for a week or two before Christmas. This possibly stops the spread of anything they might have unknowingly contracted.
This idea is well-intentioned, but the intensified schedule could lead to an entirely different problem: burnout. The average college semester is about fourteen to sixteen weeks. It is made bearable partly because we all look forward to the days off. Take those away and all that’s left is a seemingly never-ending stretch of classes that can leave students feeling exhausted by the end.
Academics are important but they are not the only part of college. Dorm and campus life might also be heavily impacted. Because of the uncertainty surrounding how coronavirus spreads, students will probably need to be constantly sanitizing every inch of their room.
How will this affect living with one or potentially multiple roommates? Will there be social distancing rules at place in the dorms? Will students be required to wear masks in their own rooms? Or will schools follow the model of hotels and restaurants and fill residences to only half capacity?
The same goes for various student clubs and organizations, even the different places around campus where students go to spend time with friends and get a break from studying. If we are not going to be allowed to spend time with one another unless it’s behind a mask and six feet apart, is there even a point to returning to campus?
It is difficult to predict exactly what the fall semester will look like. It may even seem hard to find a reason for going back. However, these potential changes should not be discouraging. Yes, it will be hard, but we have already adapted to an entirely new way of life once this year.
If needed, we can do it again. This should offer assurance that, even with the uncertainty surrounding post COVID-19 college life, we will survive that as well.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.