How can campuses get back to being the hub of university life?

It’s a new world for universities in the Covid era. How they re-engage students will decide their future.

The warning was sent in March on a Friday afternoon. All classes at the universities were moved online the following Monday. Thousands of students needed remote learning alternatives, so instructors rushed to get them ready. “It became clear very quickly that this was not going away anytime soon,” says Mary Lidstrom, a university’s vice-provost for research.

Identical scenarios have occurred at other institutions throughout the world. Lecture halls are deafeningly quiet, laboratories are empty or run with skeleton crews, and officials debate how to restart in-person sessions. Even open campuses struggle to entice students back, while other students are going back, but fear the risks.

Envisioning life with COVID, nearly one-third “never want to take another class via Zoom”; half responded that while some things about remote learning worked for them, they are “anxious to get back to all or more in-person classes.”

How can we return to the time when a real campus experience provided the best years of a student’s life?

It’s time to engage with students and encourage them to return to their campuses. It’s a better learning and life experience than remote learning.

Businesses are suffering

Education campuses, particularly universities, are struggling to get back to full speed. It’s impacting school revenues and additionally those small businesses supported by the campus, such as suppliers, coffee shops, F&B outlets, retailers.

Decrease in international students

International students bring significant revenues, but have lost confidence that they’ll be safe in another country, particularly on campus.

Education quality isn’t the same.

There’s not the same opportunity for direct conversations and teaching when education is conducted remotely and resources are not as easily accessed. Online education has not lived up to the hype, and online course work leads to socioeconomic and racial performance inequalities.

Students find it harder to help and socialize with each other.

“Friends and social life” were selected most often in a question asking respondents to choose the top three (out of nine) aspects of campus life that are most missed, with nearly 75% of respondents highlighting it as a downside of off-campus education.

One respondent at a college in Washington state notes feeling incredibly lonely: “I’ve been on campus two months, and the only people I’ve talked to for more than a minute are staff at doctor’s appointments.”

Mental health suffers

When students don’t have the social activity and interaction that happens as part of school life, their mental health suffers. We need to connect emotionally as well as electronically, especially during times of fear and uncertainty.

Emotions are crucial to learning. In Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio asserts, “We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” Recent literature affirms the importance of the affective domains in teaching and learning.

Strategies to Bring Back the Real Campus Experience

It is critical to empower students on campus by giving them as much health and safety information as possible and then combining that with making sure students know where to go, where it is safe – and where it might be too busy to keep out of harm’s way.

  • Using a combination of communication touch points across campus makes it possible to improve campus comfort and safety significantly.
  • Use digital signage to make students aware of potential risks – and the steps you’re taking to protect them.
  • Provide social distancing information and employ mask protocols across the campus.
  • Show regular announcements of what’s happening on campus, such as testing, and where and when they can be found. Provide directions on how to navigate the process without hitting bottlenecks or crowded areas.
  • Provide a mobile map of the campus and directions to classes, as well as of the covid testing stations and vaccine providers.
  • Show hot spots of the campus where student density is high, and provide the best routes to avoid those places.
  • Use campus communications and particularly digital signs for essential warnings, such as possible contact areas.
  • Beyond the safety concern, it’s vital to engage students and make the campus fun again. Use digital signage to provide retail offers to students, and encourage them to support local businesses.
  • Notify students of the social services and counselling they might need from the campus that they’ve been missing at home
  • As life returns to normal and safety concerns are reduced, it’s time to help students find their way around, and promote the events of university life. Use digital technology to show students where events, classes, and special programs are happening – and how to get there.

More students than ever will be unfamiliar with the campus – so let’s make them feel at home and engaged. Connecting students to what they love – When you remove the barriers, you bring people closer to your world.

Wrapping Up

It’s critical to the business and reputation of the school that students come back and perceive the school as an institution that cares about their safety. It may take weeks, months, or years, but things will return to a new normal. While digital education will always be a part of the solution, the campus experience IS the university experience.

Some campuses will be perceived as laggards; others will shine for their technological ingenuity and focus on making the campus the core of an excellent education experience.

PAM can help create a smart campus your students and visitors will love.

Please CONTACT US using the form below, to set a short discussion about your vision for your campus.

Contact Us

Get in touch with us today

Contact us to ask any questions relevant to your project. Please share some information with us and we will be in touch shortly. Alternatively, contact us on the numbers below.

US | 1888 4 62 63 64
AU | 1800 62 63 64