As the University of Washington prepares for the first virtual degree in its 159-year history, President Ana Mari Cauce focuses on what happens a few months later.
Speaking at a virtual town hall Cauce said with other university presidents on Wednesday that she expects UW students to be back on campus in the fall despite uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the 2024 class is ready to be "our largest freshman class ever," said Cauce.
To make this possible, UW is planning a hybrid approach that combines online learning with a small personal education. Large lectures are likely to be held online, but smaller classes, particularly those that require laboratories, could be held in person at a physical distance.
"We are actively planning to get our students back," said Cauce. "We want her in the dormitories. We know that a very important part of the learning experience takes place in the classroom from other students, but also outside the classroom in their interactions with the faculty, in laboratories. We look forward to bringing back this wealth. "
The UW switched to distance learning in early March when the COVID 19 outbreak closed schools around the world.
Cauce was accompanied by Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, and Mitchell Daniels, President of Purdue University, to discuss a question that is weighing heavily on their subject: How will the pandemic change higher education?
It is a topic that is discussed a lot. Some like New York University's Scott Galloway predict dramatic changes. Galloway says universities everywhere will be forced to adopt the hybrid learning approach and reinvent themselves or struggle to survive.
"There will be many zombie universities," said Galloway said New York Magazine. “Alumni will step in to help. They will cut costs to find out how to stay alive, but they will effectively be the walking dead. I don't think there will be massive shutdowns, but Tier 2 colleges will be charged. "
The universities are looking for creative solutions for discouraging budget cuts. UW Medicine – a lifeline for studying and responding to the COVID-19 crisis – is Vacation for 5,500 employees to cope with falling earnings.
"We have these absolute heroes who were at the forefront and we go on vacation because we want to avoid layoffs," said Cauce. “Because a number of places like our hospitals, such as B. Housing and catering services, like our overseas study programs, which are largely based on user fees, have already identified significant budget constraints that we currently manage. ”
Connected: This governor alarmed the professors 22 years ago with his vision for distance learning in 2020 – that's what he says today
These challenges will only increase as UW allows some students to enroll remotely. Cauce believes that students at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 will take all of their courses online. This would be a financial burden for the university.
The online transition costs money, as the UW did for 98% of its courses. And universities lose money if students don't pay for board and lodging. The University of Michigan estimates it could lose up to $ 1 billion by the end of the year, and the University of Kentucky will lose $ 70 million. NPR reports.
By doing New York Magazine Galloway predicted the universities would work with technology giants to offer students a mix of online and offline degrees.
"I just can't imagine what the enrollment would look like if Apple worked with a school to offer programs for design and creativity," said Galloway. "I can't imagine how high the enrollments would be if the University of Washington worked with Microsoft on technology or engineering. This would be huge enrollments. The technology company would be responsible for scaling and online grouping. The university would be responsible for accreditation. "
Cauce said budget cuts at the UW "will have very long-lasting ramifications," but "we will survive."
"This crisis has essentially created thousands of laboratories across the country experimenting with different approaches to teaching, learning, evaluating, evaluating. We will see which experiments were more successful and which were not." Said sauce. “We will be leaders in this science. No question, we are. "
A potential problem with distance learning is unequal access to broadband and technology Frank Catalano, a consultant to the educational technology industry and a longstanding GeekWire employee. The pandemic has pushed many post-secondary educators "deep into the distance learning pool," said Catalano.
"Fall 2020 will not be the same as fall 2019, and what the institutions will do will not be parallel," he said. “We have entered a time of great and frightening experimentation with online learning, and there will be some instructors and institutions that are barely on the water, others who develop an Olympic back, and probably not just some who get to the bottom sink – and take their students with them. "
GeekWire spoke to former Washington Governor Gary Locke last week about a group he founded in 1998 called the "2020 Commission" that aimed to set a vision for future higher education. It sparked an outcry from professors worried about teaching online – and the debate about online education continues today, albeit more than two decades later.
"I have always been a strong supporter of this personal interaction between the faculty and the students," said Locke last week. “Using technology can make it easier for both faculty and students. But there is still no substitute for this human interaction. "