Let’s face it – a student’s life has changed considerably, ever since the onset of COVID-19. The pandemic has thrown everything in the wind, and restoring ‘normalcy’ seems a long way off. Now that Colleges have more or less finished with the Spring intake, Students are beginning to wonder what the Fall intake will look like. Will Campuses open out for in-person instruction? Or will they continue with online instruction as most Spring sessions are following?
At the beginning of 2020, Educational Institutions worldwide began shutting their doors to regular offline classes. Schools and Teachers clamored to offer classes online, via their website or using Google Classrooms, Zoom, etc. While these online offerings had their advantages, they seemed to fail on many fronts and cast a shadow of gloom over digitized or digital education. In a recent survey, nearly 49% of students said that it is likely or very likely for the COVID-19 pandemic to impact their ability to complete bachelor’s degrees negatively. Some 56% said the same for their associate degree.
With human interaction at a low ebb, students faced unprecedented levels of anxiety, and depression, coupled with a sharp rise in suicidal tendencies as well. Teachers also had to deal with a steep learning curve to conduct their classes online, and Colleges faced mounting debt due to loss of income from tuition and other sources.
Fortunately for students and the rest of humanity, a global rollout of vaccinations gives hope for recovery in rapid succession. However, it is imperative to continue wearing masks and maintaining social distancing on campus until such inoculations have gathered steam and covered vulnerable people. As a matter of fact, Coronavirus transmissions could effectively reduce by some 96% by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and increasing COVID-19 tests.
With ever-increasing COVID-19 regulations and changing guidelines, many Universities have offered or decided to offer their Programs for the Spring intake in the online mode. Universities and faculty are not surefooted or convinced that the present scenario will change anytime soon, and getting students to follow what is often construed as draconian rules (COVID-19 regulations), will prove a formidable challenge. Students and college administrations always find themselves at loggerheads, with the former preferring to exercise their ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ and the latter battling to contain the virus’s spread while adhering to government regulations.
A relatively in-depth study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, titled “Effects of COVID-19 on College Students’ Mental Health in the United States”, presents a grim picture. Students seem to have suffered or continue to suffer from mental health issues, including difficulty concentrating, disruptions in sleeping patterns, increased social isolation, concerns on academic performance, disruptions to eating patterns, depressive thoughts, and suicidal thoughts. No doubt, this is the reason why students are anxious about the fall intake!
The Future: Fall 2021
Increasingly, there is talk of Universities considering what is known as the ‘Hybrid Model’ or ‘Blended Model’ of education. This Hybrid Model strives to blend both in-person and remote instructional formats with certain checks and balances put in place. Students are expected to study course material outside of class, with only some 25% to 50% of the instructions, assignments, and discussions taking place online. In-class hours are used to reinforce learning, ask questions and interact with teachers. Colleges feel that such a system would ease the burden of educators and students while ensuring that the conducted Program meets set standards and goals. Apart from the Hybrid or Blended format of instruction, come Institutions are also considering other modes such as:
Fully Online Teaching
Face-To-Face Web-Enabled Teaching
MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses
Of course, much of all this hinges on how effective the present inoculation drive is and the availability of vaccines for the masses. With ever-changing rules, regulations, and guidelines, Universities are treading cautiously, often preferring to wait and watch before making their decisions.
All things considered, there is a more than fair chance that Colleges will open in the Fall for full on-campus Programs. But several factors that are ambiguous and obscure, at least in the present – such as a probable third wave of COVID-19, newer strains of the virus, and efficacy of vaccines, may very well play spoilsport and throw the proverbial spanner in the works. So, it may be wise to err on the side of assumption and speculate that most Colleges may continue with remote delivery of lessons wherever possible and restrict on-campus and in-person activity to only when necessary. Consequently, there will be a heavy dependency on broadband internet, wired or wireless, and upgrades or acquisitions of hardware as basic requirements. While many colleges soften the financial blow with free laptops for students, reliable and fast internet can be expensive and challenging in certain parts of the country.
In conclusion, it is advisable to exercise caution and be prepared for either online or offline Programs (or a blend of both) for the Fall. One thing is for sure, though – perhaps for the foreseeable future and beyond, some form of online/remote education may be here to stay. That could be the new norm one needs to be ready for.
Whatever happens in the Fall of 2021, online education has started long before this pandemic. And this pandemic only accelerated the shift towards online education. This is more so for Online Master’s programs. Students and professionals see the benefits of online degrees. Here at Online Masters Colleges (OMC), we strongly believe that online education is here to stay. That is why we compiled a list of the most affordable online master’s programs, financial resources for online graduate school students, and all the resources that they will need.