Fall Planning for the New Normal: Moving Higher Ed Online

Common Challenges

Higher education is navigating uncharted waters this year as it tries to decipher the implications of local and national pandemic developments and struggles to adapt to new online modes of course and service delivery. Individual colleges and universities are not alone in their struggles but, rather, are part of the larger higher ed community sharing in their same questions and concerns. Indeed, as we found through our surveys and interviews, many of the challenges institutions are encountering in their new normal are common across the higher education landscape:

  • Doing more with less. One of the key challenges that emerged of our research was the strain on financial resources and the strain on staffing. As IT and facilities departments are called upon to lead their institutions through major adjustments and changes, many are also being asked to do so in the midst of staff shortages, hiring freezes, and budget cuts.
  • Solutions that aren't. As we learned through our interviews and surveys, many institutions are encountering the issue of rushed or ineffective solutions. The haste with which institutions need to identify and implement solutions, and the amorphous nature of the problems institutions are trying to solve, are leading to the feeling among technology leaders that some of their solutions aren't quite what they'd intended or needed.
  • The responsibilities of others. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges institutions are facing is the human element. As we've witnessed already in the false starts to the fall term at institutions including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, no matter how great the technology or how thoughtful the physical space planning or how thorough the cleaning protocols, institutions cannot monitor and police all of the activities of students, faculty, and staff, particularly in off-campus settings with differing safety measures in place. As institutions stand up new technologies, new processes and planning, and different environments for their classroom experiences, many faculty will adapt and thrive in the new normal, but not all of them will work to adopt and engage with all the newly available tools.