Today’s world is dramatically different from the world three years ago. The past couple years’ events, namely the Covid-19 pandemic, have amended our societal norms. Social distancing, wearing masks, working from home, and attending events online instantly melted into our daily lives.
The higher education system had to quickly adapt to these new expectations. An immediate short-term plan soon became a long-term solution. And while the Covid-19 pandemic has been baked into our routines, it’s an ongoing response with shifting requirements to which we have to adapt.
Looking Back: A Lens on Covid in 2020
The introduction of Covid-19 came without a standard operating picture. The pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for colleges and universities, bullying institutions into changing course in the middle of an ongoing semester.
The dust from this scramble necessitated clear communication at the organizational level. Departments needed to build a rapport with other bodies within their respective institutions, and institutions needed to get relevant information and guidance out to students. This level of transparency minimized rumors and false assumptions through an already confusing situation.
Emergency management departments across higher education took on their own set of challenges as well. The EOC went virtual, and while some institutions and their respective departments could handle that transition, it was notably harder for the programs that employed a more traditional physical EOC configuration.
Covid-19 also created new data to track and store. Cases, contacts, and other response data points helped schools understand the spread of the disease on campus. It also provided onlookers, like the government, a much-needed sightline into community-level responses. Read more about how universities prepared to go back to school in the fall since Covid-19 began here.
Matching Current Covid-19 Requirements
Everyone recognizes the pandemic has changed drastically since its start. We, as a society, have a stronger understanding of the virus and have been able to use that knowledge to meld our safety practices with the norms we enjoyed before 2020.
Online learning filled an immediate need for higher education. While the format allowed faculty to continue their classes through the pandemic, it isn’t a favorite. Many schools would prefer having their students in physical classes. As therapies and preventive measures grew in availability, schools were able to transition their faculty and student bodies back into in-person sessions.
Social distancing and masks weren’t absent in the return to the lecture hall. The hybrid learning experience will likely stay because the pandemic continues to evolve; as infection rates rise, cases fall, and variants emerge, everyone participating in higher education must stay open to operational changes that keep people learning and healthy.
The initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic still has tangible value for colleges and universities. The aforementioned transparency and clear communication the sudden operational shift created a standard for departments and teams to maintain.
Responding to the pandemic also generated a lot of data. Colleges and universities are still actively combating the pandemic on campus, but the need to track it so stringently has fallen alongside a change in approach at other levels, namely federal. As schools move into the future with the pandemic, they’ll need a solution for storing and maintaining the data departments created through the first couple years as it may become relevant in the future.