Colleges around the country are gearing up for a safe start to the new school year. Changes are happening across campuses to protect public health, including shifting more coursework to online platforms. 

But with more students learning off-campus, can schools still capture the sense of community and support that comes with the traditional college experience?

Here are a few ways to help students stay invested and connected while practicing social distancing. 

Reinforce remote resources 

Although online programs have their appeal — lower cost and flexibility, to name a few — it’s easy for students to miss out on some of the interactive elements and support systems that come with on-campus learning.   

That’s why remote learning should include virtual resources that promote active participation and set students up for success. A few ideas include:

  • Holding virtual office hours to offer regular opportunities to connect one-on-one with professors, advisors, mentors, etc.
  • Conducting classes through online platforms that enable discussion, student interaction, and workshopping 
  • Granting access to career services such as resume and portfolio assistance, career advice, and job search resources

Lastly, online learning resources should be mobile-friendly — nearly 75% of online students want to use their phones to complete learning activities.

Provide home technology

The digital divide  — the gap between those households with access to communication technologies and those without  — creates an unequal playing field in online programs. Without necessary resources like reliable internet connection, quality technology, and software applications, students may struggle to succeed in remote learning environments.

Fortunately, there are a few things higher education institutions can offer to combat this: 

  • Mobile hotspots: Although not a long-term solution, hotspot devices are a good backup plan for students with spotty internet access at home.
  • Technology loans: Students can borrow school-owned laptops, equipment, and other tech for the duration of an applicable course or their entire college career.   
  • Include tech in tuition costs: Some universities may find it easier to supply their students with all necessary technology by incorporating fees for laptops, mobile hotspots, etc. into their tuition models.

Cultivate learning communities 

Online students may also lack regular, meaningful interactions with peers and faculty members, or have trouble forming networks with those who share their interests and career goals. This is especially true for first-year students, who may feel lost without an in-person welcoming into the college experience.  

Learning communities offer a solution to feelings of isolation in an era of online learning and social distancing. It’s a different approach to curriculum development that:

  • Breaks students into small, purposeful groups, usually based on their career interests and areas of study
  • Helps students develop a sense of identity among like-minded peers
  • Establishes a supportive learning environment by prioritizing close collaboration and networking between students, staff, and faculty
  • Promotes meaningful group activities like fieldwork, community service projects, and ongoing academic assignments

Upgrade the campus mail system 

Whether they’re taking online, in-person, or hybrid classes, a contactless campus mail system is the key to not only safely delivering packages but transferring essential items such as:

  • Orientation materials (keys, ID cards, documents, etc.) 
  • Back-to-school supplies
  • Technology 
  • Course-related items (textbooks, loaned equipment, etc.)

Smart lockers are the backbone of a system like this, allowing students to stay informed of all their deliveries and pick them up when it’s most convenient for them. Campuses can install lockers pretty much anywhere there’s electricity and a WiFi connection, so students always have access and don’t need assistance from mailroom staff.

Institutions that plan to loan out laptops, hotspots, and other tech to their students can use smart lockers to secure pickups and returns. Lockers eliminate the theft and damage risks associated with mailing high-value items directly to students.

If you’d like to kick-off the fall semester with a new contactless package management solution, contact us today.