How to Return to Campus Safely as Universities Grapple to Control COVID-19

Academic institutions around the world are faced with conflicting challenges. Issues surrounding affordability, inclusivity, and accessibility have been exacerbated by the novel coronavirus and mixed expectations for a safe return to campus. Plus, today’s students are expecting more (and better) services from their chosen universities. They want to see digital technology integrated into the learning environment, especially with virtual offerings becoming necessary at some universities.

As colleges and universities attempt to reopen this Fall during the COVID-19 pandemic, each is trying to “return to campus” or “return to learning” as safely as possible for the health of their students, faculty, and staff – but how are they going about it? 

With a wide range of possible strategies, how are academic institutions handling Return to Campus?

Currently, each academic institution is rolling out its unique solution to bringing students back to campus (or not, or a combination). The College Crisis Initiative, created by Davidson College, breaks down each re-opening model. They found that less than 3% are fully in-person, 19% are primarily in-person, 16% are hybrid, 27% are online, and 30% are “other” or “TBD.”

What do some of these “hybrid” or “fully-remote” reopening models look in reality?

  • For example, Harvard University is only inviting 40% (or less) of its undergraduates to live on the Cambridge, MA campus fall 2020 with the understanding they’d be learning remotely from their single dormitory bedrooms.
  • Meanwhile, Georgetown University is only bringing 2,000 students to campus, which consists of mostly freshmen, plus resident assistants or those who can’t pursue their classwork remotely.

But, even with restrictions, colleges are still struggling to control the actions of students and cavalier attitudes around social distancing. After just one week of classes, UNC Chapel Hill garnered over 200 positive COVID-19 cases, causing the university to shift to a completely remote model. This past Saturday, Boston’s Northeastern University dismissed 11 students for violating safety protocols and kept their $36,500 tuition. This has been one of the harshest penalties of any university – and a warning for other students to take university protocols seriously.

Despite the wide range of strategies and actions taken by academic institutions around the globe, there is a standard set of themes that keep appearing. Each strategy is keeping these key concepts in mind:

  • Responding quickly to an ever-changing situation, with the ability to communicate those responses clearly.
  • Developing high-quality online (versus remote) courses.
  • Providing high-quality student experiences digitally, while clearly communicating new features.
  • Reevaluating financial aid for those with payment concerns and reaching out to waitlisted students in your nearby geography.
  • Adjusting the student lifecycle process to accommodate long-term effects.

So how do you track and control the spread of this infectious virus? 

One solution is leveraging the power of ServiceNow with their COVID-19 and Safe Workplace apps, HR Service Delivery, and Customer Service Management solutions.

Whether it’s supporting a remote campus technologically, coordinating a remote orientation for an incoming class (based on Acorio’s Student One-Stop solution), or managing contact tracing based on student schedules and locations via check-ins, ServiceNow can support in a multitude of ways. Check out how ServiceNow solutions can help Higher Ed’s Return to Campus initiatives in the graphic below:

What’s clear in this time of crisis?

It’s going to take both sides – the Universities and the Students – to make any method of Return to Campus successful to keep students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy. Until the technology is built and the Students can demonstrate responsibility around social distancing, the virus will continue to spread.

Interested in learning more about how ServiceNow can help support the Return to Campus initiative?

Join Acorio’s Roundtable Discussion Thursday, September 10th at 1:00 PM ET. Our ServiceNow experts, VP of Solutions & Innovation, Adam Mason, and Employee Experience Lead, Stacey Prezel, will dive further into the topic and how ServiceNow can help Universities expedite these ongoing changes and challenges caused by the pandemic.

Plus, find out how other universities – including The Ohio State University and the University of California Irvine – went about Return to Campus and what’s top of mind for them right now with schools in session, remote or not.