What will Fall semester 2020 look like on college campuses?
Unfortunately, due to COVID19, college campuses will be different this coming fall. Social distancing on campus, changes in dorm life, hybrid classes-a mixture of online and in-person, as well as smaller class sizes in unconventional spaces, are just a few ways it will change. For students with learning disabilities and attention issues, this will mean a need to have a greater understanding of accommodations and accessibility to their classes. Self-advocacy, resiliency, and motivation will be the key to success in this new environment more than ever.
First-year students will undoubtedly feel the impact of COVID19 the most. Not only was their high school senior year abruptly taken from them, but the college experience that they may have dreamed of will no longer look the same in 2020-2021. However, we all learned a lot since this pandemic started in March, including how to be creative in communications using online options. Some have found that the experience was better for them while others not so much. For those who felt it was more positive, they cited reasons such as more one-on-one interaction with faculty and classmates, more flexibility in attending classes, being able to review the lecture, which helped with note-taking and review. At the same time, others struggled with time management and keeping up with courses in the online environment. For students with LD/ADHD, another semester of uncertainty will take structure, reminders, motivation, focus, and resilience to cut through the challenges that they will face.
Students will see many changes on campus as well. Wearing masks has been and will be a way of life for everyone, at least for the foreseeable future. Many colleges will require students to wear masks in class and around campus, removing them when they get to their living spaces. Students living on campus may have “family spaces,” or suites, to allow some interaction between students since they may be confined to their rooms more than in the past. Cafeteria time may also be limited with takeout meals and spaced out tables. University of the Ozarks President, Rich Dunsworth, said in a recent university address that due to increased student spacing at Ozarks will mean classes will take place in unconventional spaces like theater stages or conference centers. And separate areas will be set aside for quarantining students when necessary keeping them on campus or close by to prevent the spread of the virus.
Many colleges are limiting breaks in the fall semester, asking that students leave campus before Thanksgiving and not return until classes resume at the end of January. Faculty are planning now to go all online after Thanksgiving and will round out the semester with finals online as well.
But no matter what the Fall semester looks like, getting a college education is essential not only for students but for the economy in general. In the webinar, “Preparing for Campus Life During a Pandemic” hosted by NCAG Online, Jim Welch discussed how our economy depends on skills learned in the post-secondary environment. Highly educated individuals are needed to bring new ideas and train our next generation of thought leaders.
We need to be very proud of this generation of students who learned a lot in the past few months since this pandemic began. They have already acquired skills of resilience, how to deal with disappointment, how to pivot to new learning environments, how to stay connected with friends in new ways, among other skills. Brene Brown, in her Podcast, Unlocking Us, Episode 1, states, “Learning how to stay standing in the midst of staying unsure and uncertain that is the foundation of courage.” And as these courageous students move forward into their chosen career paths, the skills learned during this time will serve them well. So let’s give these students a round of applause and an elbow or fist bump to reassure them that they are not alone. We are here for them as advisors and mentors to help them on their path, although a little different right now, as successful as possible, to become the next generation of creative thought leaders our country will need.