College years are supposed to be the best years of our lives. But today’s college students feel robbed of those supposed best years. The pandemic has taken away normal college life, forcing students into online learning and social activities.
Today’s generation may be digital natives, but they don’t necessarily enjoy online learning. Schools are facing challenges in managing the campus as well. It’s not easy to stop the spread of the virus if students and teachers are constantly mingling.
But since online learning was conducted for more than a year, the students have already adjusted. They have also discovered some perks in it. But still, students are ready to be back on campus again. How will they have an easy time with the threat of omicron, though?
The best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Thus, colleges and universities should promote vaccination if they won’t require it. Ideally, though, teachers and other staff who frequently interact with students should be required to get the shots.
Promoting vaccinations is crucial because vaccine hesitancy is increasing among Gen Z adults. In a poll conducted in March 2021, 26% of Gen Zs responded that they wouldn’t get vaccinated. Nineteen percent said they weren’t sure. The numbers were a significant increase compared to the year prior. The same poll in 2020 found that only 5% of Gen Z adults didn’t want to get vaccinated.
Another poll came up with similar results, with the addition that 34% of Gen Z adults would “wait and see” before getting vaccinated. As such, experts searched for ways to communicate about vaccines with this age group. Schools can participate in these efforts, too. Their influence can be greater since students normally look up to their school’s authorities. If not, school representatives are more relatable than public health officials anyway. Therefore, they may do better in swaying students.
Continue Offering Online Learning as an Option
Even though many esteemed colleges in the U.S. have been open since September 2021, many students still fear going back to campus. They’re not ready to share spaces with roommates yet. But if a school has managed to maintain zero COVID-19 cases since reopening, they shouldn’t stop reassuring students that it’s now safe to go back.
But of course, they can’t persuade every single student to go out of their homes. If a student’s parent would rather them continue online learning, the school must meet this demand. Colleges should continue offering online learning as an option, especially today. We may not be expecting another lockdown, but it’s better to be prepared than be taken by surprise, as was the case in 2020.
Improve Strategies for Addressing Challenges in Online Learning
Staying engaged while learning online was a major struggle for college students. In fact, not learning anything because of engagement issues scared them more than catching COVID-19. But when face-to-face classes returned, some college students called attention to the benefits of online learning.
In the report “How America Pays for College,” 75% of college students were found to prefer in-person or hybrid learning for the next semester. This means their hopes for online learning haven’t totally withered yet. As such, colleges should improve their strategies for addressing the challenges online learning creates.
In addition, colleges should pay attention to minority groups, like Black and Hispanic students. Research has found that 68% of Black students and 60% of Hispanic students felt positive about online learning. A whopping 70% of Black students and 54% of Hispanic students also reported being equally able to learn from both online and in-person classes. Both groups also cited avoiding racism and microaggression as a benefit of online learning.
With that in mind, colleges should also tackle ethical issues on campus. They shouldn’t let cases of racism and microaggression slide. If minority groups only feel safe in online classes, something must be wrong on campus. Colleges should resolve those challenges before stopping online learning.
Following the Authorities’ Guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has laid out guidelines for educational institutions reopening their campuses. All colleges should abide by these guidelines and set consequences for students and staff who disobey them. Governments and public health officials can only do so much to contain the virus. At the end of the day, individuals are responsible for their own actions. Hence, school authorities should be strict in implementing guidelines. Unruly students and staff should be held accountable for their actions.
The pandemic will continue affecting education and college lives with no clear end on sight. As such, the cooperation of colleges and students is crucial. It should be a give-and-take effort; the students should follow administrators, and administrators should heed every complaint or problem a student deals with.