It’s been several months now since campuses closed their doors to students and moved their teaching and learning online. But while this new regime still requires a lot of thought and focus, much attention has been diverted to the next big challenge - the fall semester and getting students back on campus.
A Covid-safe environment demands students’ movements and activities conform to new hygiene and social distancing measures. Not least affected is the use of specialized equipment which is an essential part of many degree programs. So how will equipment lending services be efficiently and safely organized for both students and staff going forward? Below we provide a list of areas to consider.
Firstly, it’s useful to put these challenges in the context of how education will be delivered. Higher education guidance and plans show that the following approaches are likely to be in place for teaching and learning:
- Blended learning – for delivery of teaching, which combines streaming or recorded lecture delivery with students attending campus only for specific sessions or purposes
- HyFlex (Hybrid Flexible format courses) – students opt to participate either in person or online, with maximum numbers for in-person sessions carefully managed
- Online and distance learning – while most institutions aim to offer some in-person tuition, online learning is likely to feature as a method of course delivery to some extent. For periods of time, selected cohorts, year groups or courses may only be taught online while others are prioritized on campus. If virus infection rates increase, there remains the risk that institutions will revert to online learning only
For the first two learning models above, equipment lending can resume with some process and booking changes to allow for cleaning and social distancing.
In the third instance of online learning, what might usually be practical projects involving equipment use could be replaced by written assignments. This is what we’ve already seen in recent months. Although not ideal for hands-on courses such as filmmaking and TV production, it was often the only practical way universities could continue under lockdown conditions.
Nonetheless, equipment lending in such circumstances is essential for the supply of laptops, webcams and other support for online learning where students might otherwise go without. Of course, this kind of service also supports the online elements in the first two approaches, ensuring students are properly equipped to participate.
For each of these contexts, we’re working with our university connect2 customers to shape booking rules, communications and other refinements so all goes smoothly in each case. It will enable their services to continue under the following ‘new normal’ conditions:
- Students’ attendance on campus is likely to be for shorter timespans, specific purposes and planned further ahead. Advance reservations will be essential for picking up and returning equipment
- Presence on campus will be expected to conform to strict social distancing measures and maximum capacities. Signage and floor markings will help everyone conform to these controls. For equipment booking checkout and check-ins, new processes and visibility may be needed to avoid peak times and long lines forming in the store
- Campus layout and foot flow will be addressed. Many corridors and stairwells may operate a one way system for social distancing purposes. It may take a while for students to adjust and allow more time to be punctual, whether for classes or equipment reservations
- Cleaning regimes will be in place for commonly touched areas and shared equipment. New processes will need to allow for cleaning between users and sometimes for quarantining
- Students will be encouraged to cycle to campus in place of using public transport. This may restrict how much equipment they can safely transport back and forth
- Access to services or areas may quickly change. Good communication channels are needed for keeping all informed and updated, including changes to opening hours or specific reservations
Together we can ensure that equipment is safely managed and that in-person staff and student interactions are minimized where necessary. Meanwhile new best practice will help control checkouts/ins to meet social distancing measures.
While both students and staff get used to a ‘new normal’ we’re helping add flexibility to processes to ease the transition. This will involve both allowing more time for equipment preparation and cleaning, and time for safe collection and return of items. Good communication with students through every touchpoint of borrowing equipment will support awareness of new processes and help gain cooperation in realizing changes.
The health, safety and wellbeing of all on campus will always be of utmost importance as students return. We welcome you to get in touch to make sure you have what you need to continue on a strong footing. With our support, we trust you can demonstrate that robust cleaning plans and processes are in place and that social distancing measures can be supported. And by keeping students informed around new rules of equipment access and hygiene, it will also help you maintain the satisfaction levels we’ve worked together to achieve.