Nobody rang in the new year expecting a 2020 like the one we have had so far. Nearly halfway through the year, it is safe to say that 2020 continues to be largely defined by the COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in the most widespread global public health crisis.
The global health crisis has also brought on the largest, wide-scale transition to remote work around the world as governments and citizens do their part to abide by social and physical distancing measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Institutions of higher education in the U.S., and the millions of students and student families currently enrolled or planning to enroll at a college or university, have found themselves in the same whirlwind transition.
It was not uncommon for the top colleges and best universities in the U.S. to market at least some part of their course offerings as online college classes, freely available to enrolled students through remote instruction and distance learning methods. In fact, many higher ed institutions already had branches of their institution dedicated to online learning. Some were already largely dedicated to providing online degrees and, therefore, had the infrastructure ready to handle the sudden switch that 2020 has brought on.
For institutions that were not originally primarily online, the transition has come with its bumps. Before, many of these institutions thought of online learning as a feature simply to make their offerings more marketable in a 21st century environment. Now, these same institutions find themselves recognizing online learning as a necessity.
Institutions are looking for companies that can provide the best Learning Management System (LMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), application managers, and more. Institutions are also looking for results that are as quick and cheap as possible, which is understandable considering they are businesses looking to maximize profit and keep their customers happy.
However, higher education institutions must recognize that behind every online tool and technology platform used for remote work and distance learning, is a software company that is working as hard as possible to provide results. A well planned transition to remote work and online instruction can take up to six months when all details are considered.
What has the online transition looked like for colleges and universities so far?
A startuniversity.com article published last month shares a couple of lighthearted accounts of the transition to online college.
A 73 year old music professor at Fordham University, who was unfamiliar with online learning software prior to this year, decided to rap about social distancing and hand-washing live for his students in a history of music class. His rhymes kept students engaged and laughing as they sat in on the Zoom videoconference class session.
In another class taught online via Zoom, a student's cat popped up on screen as a professor drew economic models.
Not all online classes are so lighthearted. Some online classes have been disrupted by anonymous users that display racial slurs or pornography, which has resulted in cancelled classes that may or may not have been rescheduled.
Click here to read more about how online classes have been working.
These small moments demonstrate the unpredictability and touch-and-go nature of the transition to remote work that higher ed institutions' faculty and students have been experiencing.
While some of these moments inspire laughter and others, such as the presence of online hackers, may cause brows to furrow, we cannot forget that the development of successful remote work software requires time and money. Recent surveys have shown that college parents and students have not been fully satisfied with the online instruction they have been receiving. Some surveys have even taken a look to see if college parents and students have uncertainties regarding the upcoming school year. A good number show uncertainty about Fall enrollment, and many are concerned about the cost versus quality of online education.