The opening of brick and mortar colleges and universities in Fall 2020 will present a challenge due to the absence of a vaccine for COVID-19.
Healthcare professionals and politicians have been warning us to get used to a new normal based on COVID-19 being with us for quite some time and before an effective vaccine is introduced. In the meantime, all governments can do is slow the pace of infection to prevent overburdening health-care systems and hope for herd immunity to take place among the world’s seven billion population.
With the reality of COVID-19 in mind, can we imagine clustering students, faculty, and staff in residence halls, small classrooms, lecture halls, and offices in fall 2020? What if COVID-19 flares up on campuses? What if colleges and universities open in fall 2020 and students, faculty, and staff start dying from COVID-19?
Colleges and universities will have to endure unimaginable liability if they reopen too soon; insurance companies will be reluctant to insure them, and if such companies decide to provide their services, they will likely charge high premiums. Therefore, it is imperative that colleges and universities act responsibly, regardless of their size, location, and population (traditional versus adult students), and offer online courses until a vaccine becomes available.
This transition from traditional in-person learning to online learning will be relatively painless for colleges and universities that had already started to explore the digital future of education a few years ago and that already had the finances to move to an online environment. However, it will be a very difficult and painful transition for small- to medium-sized colleges and universities that have retained their traditional brick-and-mortar delivery of education and campuses. The leadership of such colleges and universities will not be able to make adaptations to allow for online learning on their own and in time for Fall 2020.
The leadership of traditional brick and mortar campuses must start thinking outside the box. Major consulting firms will be offering off the shelf expensive solutions and probably charging astronomical fees for their services up front, which will increase the burden on these institutions and will not provide any guaranty on the results. There are other options and solutions. One to consider is to hire thought leaders with a proven record who are willing to provide their expertise on a contingency fee and receive compensation based on results and deliverables once new revenue streams are realized. They must be vetted carefully to find the perfect match for each institution’s needs to overcome the challenges of the 2020-2021 academic year and beyond.
Alex Ezat Parnia, Ph.D.
President, MSM USA
Dr. Alex Parnia brings more than 30 years of experience performing a variety of successful roles at elite academic institutions as a faculty member, campus Dean, Vice-President of Marketing and Enrollment, Executive Vice- President, Provost, and President. He is the former president of Pacific Oaks College and Children’s School and currently serves as president of MSM-USA, an international company serving academic institutions in Canada, The United States, UK, and the EU.