Addressing COVID-19 dictums is an opportunity to invest in technology to not only help return students and revenues back to campus but also to advance the transformation to the "next normal."
The emergence of COVID-19 this spring sent higher education institutions scrambling to expand and support remote learning, instruction, engagement, connectivity, wellness, and more at a speed and cost that no one could have anticipated. Now, colleges and universities must prepare for a fall reopening unlike any before. Institutions must perform a balancing act of choosing and investing in solutions amidst continuing uncertainties. Among these uncertainties are considerations of cost, health, and preparedness to bring students back safely. What is the cost to the institution if students fail to return in the fall, and does it outweigh the potential cost to bring them back safely? How can administrators protect campus health? What solutions can be enacted not only for the fall and spring semesters but also for the years that follow?
The transition to the new normal was addressed succinctly by Michael Berghoff in an official statement on behalf of Purdue University. Berghoff announced that Purdue must make "many major changes in our protocols and our behaviors." For Purdue, these changes will include a greater emphasis on social distancing, especially in classrooms and public spaces like gyms, food halls, and common areas, as well as physical signs reminding students, staff, and faculty to abide by safety protocols. Additionally, a contact-tracing system will be established to protect student health.1
A recent QuickPoll conducted by EDUCAUSE shows that a fall reopening seems inevitable for most survey respondents, and protecting the health and wellness of their campus members is their top priority.2 However, institution preparedness varies greatly, especially for measures relating to health-safety, where many universities are falling short. Per the EDUCAUSE QuickPoll, the majority of higher education institutions plan to increase their use of technology solutions to support the health-safety of the campus community. These plans include contact-tracing solutions, capacity controls at communal venues, safe distancing measures, self-health assessment tools, and processes and support for quarantines, testing, etc. More importantly, the poll indicated that there is a limited choice set with respect to solutions and no clear winners that fulfill all or even most of the functions that schools need by this fall.
Only 40 percent of colleges and universities plan to utilize a mobile-based application, either homegrown or institutional, to address the health-safety protocols, likely because few applications offer a comprehensive package that covers safe distancing, self-health assessments, contact tracing, etc. This could be a cardinal mistake. Schools need to meet the students where they are—on their devices—and make it easy for staff and employees to use solutions if they want all of these stakeholders to adhere to the many and evolving health-safety protocols and share the responsibility of controlling instances of COVID-19 on campus.
During COVID-19 and beyond, institutions of higher education are faced with a choice—to manage these new health-safety requirements using manual systems or use technology-based solutions.
Based on Cytilife's Smart Campus deployment experience on several university campuses, the recently launched Smart Reopening solution set leverages smart technologies such as IoT sensors and Wi-Fi geofencing for real-time data, machine learning, digitization of venue floor plans, advanced analytics, and mobile technologies. In developing this solution, we followed several guiding principles, which we hope will help your institution to choose, buy, or develop the right technology and solutions:
- Proactively mitigating risks
- Having systemic control and management of capacity and crowds across all communal venues on campus
- Automating safe distancing, self-health screening, contact tracing, and other health-safety protocols
- Getting real-time visibility to everyone, from anywhere to view which venues are at capacity or are safe to enter
- Real-time alerts on "hot spots" across campus
- Sharing information with students and all campus users to instill confidence and drive adherence to all the new safety protocols, health resources, and reorganized physical venues
- Meeting students where they are—on mobile devices and apps
- Collecting data and insights to make data-driven decisions
- Addressing more aspects of health-safety in one solution versus having multiple solutions
- Enabling the journey to the "next normal" for your campus
Cytilife is a Minnesota-based Smart Campus company that works with higher education institutions and has developed a Smart Reopening solution leveraging IoT, mobile, machine learning, and data science technologies to address imperatives related to COVID-19 and beyond. The solution has three modules that can be deployed within six to eight weeks: Safe Distancing, Self-Health Assessments, and Contact Tracing. The company provides an end-to-end service that includes branding, configuration, deployment, and continued 24x7 support.
To learn more about Cytilife's Smart Reopening solution, please join Sabina Saksena, CEO of Cytilife, for a webinar at 1 p.m. CST (2 p.m. EST) on Thursday, July 23, 2020. Sign up here today.
- "Purdue Trustees OK Plans to Accommodate Remote Students, Additional Measures for Fall Semester," Purdue University (press release), May 26, 2020. ↩
- Susan Grajek, "EDUCAUSE COVID-19 QuickPoll Results: Early Technology Practices to Support Campus Health," Data Bytes (blog), EDUCAUSE Review, June 19, 2020. ↩
Sabina Saksena is CEO and Founder of Cytilife.
© 2020 Cytilife.