Impact of COVID-19 on Universities

Impact of COVID-19 on Universities

It is hard to know what impact COVID-19 will have on universities, and academic teaching. Of course you could read what others think, or watch video (like this one). But you could also do your own war-gaming or scenario planning. That's what I did. And that is what I run through quickly here.


We're now in a stage of perhaps moving towards what everyone's calling "COVID-normal". So, but what does that mean, and how can you work out? What it might mean for you or how the world might change as a result of operating in "COVID-normal"?

One of the things that you could do would be a thing called wargaming or scenario planning. Basically, it's essentially listing out all the different possibilities and then what comes of those kinds of things. If we take for example social distancing. What does that mean? So it might mean that university lecture theatres are owning your quarter full. So, what does that mean? It means that you can only enroll the quarter of the number of students in a particular unit or class or you've got to run the class 4 times as many times as it used to do. Or it might mean that everything now instead of being online as an option, and now it's online automatically and then it only comes at face to face as a matter of if there's some things that you must do face to face. So, there's some things that you might do kind of wargame, and you just draw the idea or write down the idea then draw an arrow what the next consequence of that is until you find out what the impact is going to be on your life or on university life. So that's social distancing, and teaching.

What happens if we think about say, research? So, you might have the production of some of the facilities or some of the reagents might be a bit behind. Or they might not even be produced anymore or you might not be able to move them around the country that you're in or around the world from its place of manufacture to you with your research group. So, you might have to source new reagents or you might need to make your own reagents when previously you bought. Then again, you just write these things down.

If you're a social researcher, you might find that you can't meet face to face with the people that you're interviewing. You got to interview via Zoom. What does that mean for the technology that you need, and the technology that your interview subject needs, and how can you control the environment and make it a safe one if you're asking questions that might elicit an emotional response? And how do you support them if they do have an emotional response? You might write these ideas down that you can't be there to consult them. You know, do they need to have someone nearby that can consult them if these are going to be emotional questions that you're asking them.

If we think about our teaching and you know, again the social distancing example before but there might be other examples for you if you're now only using a quarter of the lecture theater space. Maybe coming to lectures is not something that people want to do anymore. Lecture theatres might get converted to offices so that researchers can all be on-site, and all maintain appropriate physical distancing. You might not have communal kitchens anymore. You have to buy your lunch all the time or you can't take your keep cup anymore because cupboard transmission might be too risky for keep cups. There are some of the things that you can do to predict how "COVID-normal" might impact you.

As usual, let me know how that goes for you, and if you like this please share with others.