Recently, my friend and futurist Bryan Alexander posited three scenarios for the coming years of higher education: The Post-Pandemic Campus, Covid Fall, and Toggle Term. In the first scenario the disruptions of this spring rapidly fade into the past with only minor disruptions to future activities. Covid Fall presents a doomsday scenario where both the responses of our institutions and the spread of virus remain beyond control. The third model posits oscillations of viral activity with COVID-19 reappearing spasmodically in time and place and institutions having to react in various ways in response to outbreaks.
A savvy planner will hope for the first outcome but will be prepared for the second and third ones. Many universities are beginning to do so. The logistics of running a university or college in this environment are incredibly complex but they only serve the larger goal of learning.
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We must therefore not lose sight of the wicked problem of how we might preserve quality (and a measure of equality) within instruction. This is a difficult conversation to have right now because the teaching faculty are deeply submerged in the process of somehow maintaining order out of the chaos that has been produced by the initial wave of the virus.