5 coronavirus considerations for professional, online, and adult education leaders

Expert Insight

5 coronavirus considerations for professional, online, and adult education leaders

Leaders of professional, online, and adult education are working tirelessly to support colleagues and students as we strive for instructional continuity in the face of COVID-19. Below are five key questions to guide planning and decisions in the immediate, near-term, and long-range.

Key questions for leaders of professional, online, and adult education

Immediate Priorities

1. Ensure remote instruction best practice tools and resources are displayed on the website

Make sure they are also easily accessible for members of the campus community–students, faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants. Prioritize list of campus-supported technologies and remote teaching and success tools, with simple FAQs and step-by-step instructions. Focus on widely-used platforms such as the campus learning management system (LMS), lecture capture tools (Panopto, Kaltura), and basic collaboration and communication tools (like Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Shindig, Zoom, Adobe Connect, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts).

Encourage faculty to keep things simple. There is a wealth of resources being shared across social media and professional networks, which is helpful but also can be overwhelming. The best resource centers we’ve seen are the ones that provide tailored advice for quick migration during a time of disruption. 

Collaborate with teaching and learning centers (CTLs), IT, and experienced online faculty to offer asynchronous and synchronous virtual office hours. Ask experienced online faculty if they would serve as peer mentors for colleagues across campus.

2. Provide messaging and support services to professional, adult, online, and noncredit students

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Examples of online campus-wide communications
Examples of online campus-wide communications

How will you adapt planned prospective student marketing and recruiting communications in the days and weeks ahead? Prominently link to campus-wide communications on your division or unit’s landing page (desktop/tablet/mobile-responsive design) and consider creating unit-specific messaging that speak directly to the needs of your community like:

Do not assume that students already enrolled in online courses are not impacted by current events. While they may not experience the same disruption to current coursework, they will be impacted in other ways. Persistence among professional and adult learners is always challenged by the need to balance personal, professional, and academic pursuits, and given the current economic and health crises, adult learners will face heightened child- and elder-care responsibilities, economic hardship or change in employment status, and possibly personal illness.

Many institutions are proactively suggesting students speak to an instructor or advisor before deciding to withdraw from a course or take a leave of absence. Ensure your staff are prepared to support students in thinking through these decisions and that campus-wide advising, counseling, and mental health services extend to your students.

Near-Term Preparation for Summer and Fall 2020

3. Scale online education best practices and instructional design across the curriculum

Which courses should be prioritized for more intensive investment? How can the campus anticipate and mitigate pushback likely to stem from the current rushed migration? We know many of your staff are already going above and beyond to scale practice and offer support to colleagues. We anticipate even greater demand in the weeks ahead as campuses confront the possibility of an extended period of remote instruction. How will you balance campus-wide demands with the needs and well-being of your staff and students?

4. Evaluate shifts in demand for noncredit courses

How might demand for noncredit courses—both professionally-aligned and personal enrichment—shift in the weeks to come, especially as individuals seek intellectual stimulation and community during a period of sustained social distancing and/or remote work?

Longer-term Planning

5. Identify what programs will be of greatest need as the global community recovers

The economic impact of the virus will undoubtedly reshape demand for (re)training, upskilling, and continued education in the year(s) to come. The United States and global community will likely face record unemployment figures and surges in demand for certain skilled professionals. Partners are already asking whether the counter-cyclical relationship between unemployment and adult enrollment is likely to hold should we enter a recession accelerated by a global pandemic.