COVID-19 and American Higher Education
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has led to many colleges and universities moving to remote courses for an indefinite period, including in many cases for the rest of the spring semester. Many residential colleges are sending students home, advising them to assume classes on campus will not resume this spring, but instead will continue online. Colleges and universities with more commuter students have also moved to remote learning. CUNY and SUNY college students were informed by New York State Governor Cuomo that the remainder of the semester would be done through “off campus learning.” The objective is to reduce large gatherings and help reduce the spread of the virus, protecting not just the students and staff of the colleges and universities, but the community more broadly, while continuing students’ education if possible.
As colleges and universities are having to respond to COVID-19 and move to remote education, we have undertaken a case study of one of the first American-affiliated universities to move to online in response to the crisis, to pull together any lessons that may be of help as they move in this direction. Duke Kunshan University (DKU) is a collaboration between Duke University and Wuhan University offering a liberal arts and sciences education in Kunshan, China. While students and faculty were on vacation for the Chinese New Year in January 2020, the virus struck in China, making it impossible for faculty and students to return to campus in Kunshan. As a result, the administration decided very quickly to move the remainder of the semester online, and had two weeks to do so. We hope this case study will help others navigate such a shift, and help them anticipate some of the decisions that will need to be made.
This challenge facing our nation’s colleges and universities will continue over the coming months, as our nation addresses the COVID-19 challenge more broadly, including of course impacts on the health of the population and the state of our economy. We will continue to track developments and implications for colleges and universities, in hopes of assisting the higher education community as it responds to this crisis in our country and around the world.