Is Life on Campus Over? The Challenges of the Student Experience in a Post-COVID World
Life has changed dramatically over the past year, and as students and staff continue to log off Zoom and navigate their return to the “new normal” on campus, they’re still left asking questions like will things ever be the same? Is life on campus over?
While we can’t speak to the former, our answer to the latter question is a resounding “no.” Life on campus is far from over. That said, the present and future of life on campus—whether in a physical or hybrid context – will certainly need to be more mindful and controlled as universities continue to adapt, create long-term solutions and provide rich and valuable campus experiences.
The Present and Future of Campus Life
Roadblocks that Institutions Must Overcome
The modern campus looks and feels dramatically different than it did in 2019. Logistically speaking, campuses today must continue to prioritize social distancing, cleaning, hygiene and ongoing efforts to maximize safety and remain compliant with changing CDC guidelines— issues that were hardly top of mind just one year ago.
And this is more complex than it may seem. Effective cleaning ostensibly requires that spaces are sanitized directly after every use while maintaining social distancing and providing the amenities that students need. This balancing act immediately raises many questions like:
- How will we be able to make a student or faculty member feel safe?
- Can we alleviate the anxiety that students and faculty have around cleanliness?
- How can we proactively give students spaces to study or meet that we can track and clean directly after use?
- What cleanliness standards are going to change in comparison to old standards?
- What are possible new cleaning procedures or cleaning products?
- How will someone know if the room is clean?
In short, maintaining and booking spaces post-COVID is a complex logistical concern that requires significant forethought, planning and technology to resolve.
Then there’s the social aspect: students and faculty continue to experience anxiety about their health and safety on campus. This, too, raises a myriad of concerns – and colleges are feeling the impact. Many campuses are closing, and Forbes notes that more than a third of 937 private universities are in “low” financial health, meaning they will run out of money within six years. What’s more, the American Council on Education notes that admissions were down 15% in 2020, a drop that translated to a $45 billion drop in tuition revenue. In short, campuses have a lot to lose if they don’t address concerns head-on and get the “return-to-campus" right.
Despite Roadblocks, Campuses Must Create Rich and Formative Experiences
How is this done? For starters, institutions must address and alleviate these fears and create an environment in which the student body can thrive if they hope to move forward. In doing so, they must also remember that, though the circumstances have changed, the broader needs of the students and staff remain the same. Students still need formative, rich college experiences that allow them to study, socialize and learn.
Campuses, in turn, must find a way to meet student expectations and ensure that they can make campus life manageable, enjoyable and memorable for students and staff. In a post-COVID world, this will require seamless, easy-to-use, intuitive technology that’s purpose built to facilitate interactions and create a frictionless online experience. The right tool should include the following features:
- Easily bookable spaces and campus hoteling
- Mobile capabilities
- Space analytics and visibility into cleaning and sanitation efforts
- Centralized space booking
The Right Technology Can Help Enrich the Campus Experience
Campus Hoteling and Easily Bookable Spaces
Moving forward, student safety and social distancing options will remain critically important – and first-come, first-serve spaces simply don’t provide the visibility and control necessary to create a safe and flexible environment.
That’s why the best solution for campuses is space hoteling, an agile practice that allows students to find and book the study spaces, classrooms and other locations that best suit their needs. This kind of flexible booking and space reservation system not only meets changing needs, but also allows users to
- Have a single source of truth from which students and faculty can schedule all classes and events.
- Understand how many people may be impacted by a potential security risk.
- Respond quickly to risks, thereby avoiding costly delays.
- Maximize convenience via tools like web access, mobile access, kiosks, calendars and room signs.
- Use self-service to maximize flexibility and efficiency of booking experiences.
- Adhere to COVID-19 regulations and recommendations.
Digital transformation across all facets of life — including buying groceries, booking flights, submitting work orders, and making purchases — have changed the way people perceive quality experiences, making them come to expect seamless digital experiences as part of day-to-day life.
On campus, students and faculty hope to be able to work on smartphones, tablets, laptops and an array of software and cloud applications – and Millennial and Gen Z users have come to expect nothing less. Ensuring you have device-agnostic tools and mobile capabilities, then, helps meet modern expectations while facilitating social distancing and allowing for easy space booking on-the-go.
EMS’ Direct Spaces is a powerful mobile tool that meets modern expectations and allows users to:
- Create reservations on-the-go: Using the Direct Spaces interface, users can easily create reservations, request managed rooms, add attendees, view floor plans and add specific meeting requests. This provides all the functionality of the EMS tool on-the-go – so even if you’re on your way to the office or walking around campus, you can book the space you need.
- Update meetings and reservations: If something changes, mobile users can also cancel meetings, check-in, end meetings or update times and locations.
- Work from anywhere, anytime: EMS’ mobile app works internationally and supports all phone native languages and date formats so your team won’t be limited by language or geographic location.
And this not only applies to space scheduling but also cleaning work order updates.
For campuses that use EMS and FAMIS 360, students can scan QR codes when they are done using a space that triggers work orders directly into the FAMIS 360 system. Once the QR codes are scanned, the system automatically assigns the work order to the right custodian and lets them know they have a new job via text. That custodian, in turn, can update their progress via the FAMIS app until the work order is complete. That way, staff can easily update the system when they’re cleaning a space and users always know when a space is clean and safe. This allows for seamless sanitation efforts across your campus from self-service spaces like study areas and desks to classrooms.
Space Analytics and Visibility into Sanitation Efforts
Understating your space utilization is critical when scheduling your facilities work and your cleaning protocols. To operate effectively, faculty and administration need to know key details like:
- When to turn over a classroom or meeting space
- The square footage and materials of a space, which can help determine what needs to be cleaned and how.
- A space’s schedule, which can help organize the cleaning staff’s workload and set up recurring work orders for cleaning. This can ensure that a space won’t be forgotten and allow users to track the time and materials that it takes to clean a space.
- Key performance indicators on the efficiency and cost of sanitation versus regular cleanings.
Reports from EMS and FAMIS 360 can help gain these insights, allowing users make informed decisions every semester.
Centralized Space Booking
A centralized booking ecosystem can streamline the campus experience, allowing users to:
- Eliminate the lack of communication across academic and service departments using features like notifications and change alerts automatically sent to all stakeholders.
- Create a single source of truth to manage risk, identify true space utilization and create on-demand reporting and analysis for space usage, services and more.
- Connect all critical technologies.
Life on campus is far from over, but effectively navigating COVID guidelines, creating experience-based spaces and meeting the needs of students will require a robust technological system powered by comprehensive space booking, analytics and multi-device capabilities.
Is your campus ready?