There is one thing on the minds of many education institutions right now, and that is what is going to happen to their fall semesters that are scheduled to start a few months from now. The truth is that nobody really knows. What we do know is that it will largely depend on how the COVID-19 situation develops over time. The good news is that as time passes, the picture does clear up little by little, and we can look at data to back that up.
The facts are simple: If the Coronavirus continues to spread, education businesses will suffer and may have to postpone or altogether cancel their fall semesters. However, this scenario also produces a choice for the education businesses, and that is whether or not to take their classes online. We can already see a big surge in search traffic for queries related to “online classes”. The point is that out of chaos comes opportunity and some businesses will be able to capitalize on it. Students have certainly not given up on getting educated, regardless of what happens in the coming months.
The other possible outcome is that Coronavirus cases will subside by the time fall classes are scheduled to start. We do have a good 4 months until then, which is a long time for our understanding of the virus to progress, more people to develop immunity and social distancing practices to show results. In fact, as of the writing of this article on April 24th, we can see that daily new cases are beginning to flatten. This is one data point that is not often mentioned in mainstream media because they are continuing to look at total cases, which at some point becomes useless. After all, as more people get sick, more people also recover and are developing immunities and we get closer and closer to putting out the Corona fire. Here is the chart of daily NEW cases.
We can clearly see that the number of new people getting sick has practically not changed for nearly 1 full month now. We’re consistently seeing around 80k daily new cases worldwide. We also have to consider that as time passes, more tests are being conducted, which gives more people the opportunity to get registered into this data. This suggests that the true data may actually be a reduction of daily new cases, when accounting for available testing. This gives us hope that things will be okay by the time fall comes!
What Are Universities Doing?
The short answer is that from our observations, most universities are not doing much as of yet. One of our clients is a medical school in the Caribbean that has traditional spring and fall classes. So far, they’re not expecting any changes to their fall semester start dates. Other institutions, however, are taking their own course of action. “Two universities in the California State University system, San José State and Cal State Fullerton, have been open about considering and planning for a fall semester online. Though officials at those colleges have emphasized that nothing is set in stone, they are getting everything in order for a possible virtual semester.” (Inside Higher Ed (2020). The Big “If” [online]. Available at: link source)
What Are Students Doing?
Earlier, we noted that most students are not planning to stop their education. They’re either planning to continue as normal or switch to online. In a survey by Google, potential students were asked: “What do you plan to do within the next year?”. The outcome had almost no change before and after COVID-19.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming fall classes but we’re staying optimistic. Based on recent data on Coronavirus cases, Google Trends, and student surveys, it is highly likely that fall classes will not be impacted to a large degree. However, even in the worst-case scenario, students are still looking to get educated and many will look towards online alternatives to do so. This suggests that education businesses should be ready to quickly adapt to the new landscape lying ahead.