Ioana Iliu

How to help students deal with COVID-19!

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In the global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, both individuals and organisations in multiple fields are expressing uncertainty around the future of their otherwise daily activity and the possibility to minimise the impact on outcomes, while keeping the safety measures required by authorities such as the WHO. The higher education industry, partly reliant on worldwide exchange of knowledge, professors and students, needs to adapt quickly to new requirements.

Studyportals asked (prospective) international students about their concerns and needs. Their key concerns: How will they continue the programmes that were offered only on campus? Will they still be able to apply and enroll in 2020 or will they have to defer until next year? What possibilities do students have to fund their studies, since seasonal jobs and their (parents’) savings have drastically decreased?

As the COVID-19 public health crisis unfolds, transparent information becomes crucial. Based on the replies from students, we’ve compiled a list of measures and topics that HEI should communicate about towards students.

Address general concerns

• Write a front FAQ page dedicated to the pandemic, focused on news and measures taken by your university/institution.
• Communicate clearly what measures are you taking to ensure a safe environment at your university. Hygiene related measures are mandatory, as well as the availability of Health personnel and what kind of health support will international students receive and what about social distancing on campus.
• In the FAQ page, add resources that link to official information from authorities in the field, such as the World Health Organisation.
• Group the information by audience, with, e. g. questions coming from prospective students, current students and your academic staff.
• Within your administration, consider creating a special e-mail address or hotline where students can address their concerns

Supporting your current students

• Clarify what steps you are taking or considering in order to ensure the continuation of academic programmes?

  • Which classes, lectures and seminars are offered online?
  • What are the options to take exams online?
  • Can students postpone their studies or exchange semesters?

• Address various scenarios in which students might find themselves, such as “If I defer my enrolment for a year, what will happen to the scholarship I was awarded?”
• Provide details about the delivery of the programmes that are offered online
• Communicate guidelines about efficient ways to study at home. Our surveys show that students are facing difficulties in adapting to online and studying from home. Inconveniences were expressed around extra workload, quality decreased, they worry for the quality of their grades,
• Enable a positive, lively, online, students’ community, i.e. create an online campus that all students (domestic and international) feel a part of as students shared a lack of motivation in self-isolation.
• Postponing practical courses and internships or give alternative options, so students do not run the risk of losing credits.

Supporting your incoming students

• When it comes to prospective students, they are mostly worried about the application deadlines and requirements – Will deadlines be moved back such that I may still do my English proficiency test before the deadline? What about GMAT or GRE? And if the application deadline will be moved back, what does this mean for their visa application; will the deadline for the visa also be delayed?
• The second concern is, of course, financial, since many soon to be students will have a hard time finding ways to fund their programmes. Providing updated information about scholarship or grants requirements and deadlines, or other financial opportunities could ease the burden for some of them.

Providing other valuable resources

• Provide positive information about, for example, updates on research and development of a vaccine against COVID-19, lifting of travel bans and opening of borders if and when applicable, new positive social practices (online gym classes); provide ideas on what to do at home during self-isolation; increase motivation around reasons to study online and remain effective.
• If you have any insights available, students expressed their interest in the best career opportunities based on future labor market needs, during and after the global crisis.
• Openly address xenophobic concerns of international students from different backgrounds.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Student Perceptions of COVID-19 and check our upcoming webinars!

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