Resource Roundup: Attending College in the Time of COVID-19

College student looking at laptop and participating in online college course

As colleges begin the fall 2020 semester—whether remotely, in‑person, or using a hybrid model—many questions and concerns remain related to the COVID‑19 pandemic. How can postsecondary institutions equitably support students in remote and hybrid learning environments? What resources are available for students who are facing food or housing insecurities? How has the pandemic influenced college enrollment, and what may be some effects of students' decisions to take a gap year or time off from college?

To shine a light on these topics, we reached out to our network members to curate a list of resources providing research evidence, recommendations, and best practices.

Remote learning and education technology

Using Technology to Support Postsecondary Student Learning: A Practice Guide for College and University Administrators, Advisors, and Faculty. This What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide provides evidence‑based recommendations for supporting learning through the effective use of technology as well as tips for implementing the recommendations and addressing common obstacles.

>>  For more research on the effectiveness of remote learning, browse the WWC database of distance learning studies.

CARPE Presents: Leveraging 'Nudges' During Social Distancing. When using online learning platforms, one challenge is how to motivate students remotely. In this webinar from the Center for Applied Research for Postsecondary Education (CARPE), experts—including Eric Bettinger, PhD, our network's lead principal investigator—discuss the use of text messaging and other virtual nudges that colleges can use to increase enrollment, persistence, and credential attainment.

>>  See our related network study examining the use of nudges to prevent late college departure as well as a guide from the Nudge4 Solutions Lab on evidence-based strategies for successful remote advising.

Using Technology to Promote Postsecondary Success and Savings: An Evaluation of the University of Texas at Tyler's Patriots Accessing Technology for Savings and Success (PATSS) Initiative. This RAND Corporation report presents the findings of an evaluation of a University of Texas at Tyler hybrid program combining online and in-person instruction. The study looked at student academic performance, course evaluations, and cost savings to students, educators, and the university. Although persistence outcomes were similar to those for in-person classes, the hybrid program was more cost-effective and can serve as a model for other institutions.

APLU Personalized Learning Consortium. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) formed the Personalized Learning Consortium (PLC) to help public universities use technology to improve student learning through personalization. Consortium resources provide insights into the use of virtual learning to increase student success, particularly for traditionally underserved students.

Using Technology to Support English Language Acquisition in Higher Education: A Study of Voxy’s Effect on English Language Proficiency. This study, conducted by the American Institutes for Research, examined whether English learners’ access to a web- and mobile-based online platform as part of the community college language laboratory had an impact on the students’ English language proficiency—and found English language gains after one semester.

Supporting students facing food and housing insecurities

College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice administers the #RealCollege survey annually to assess college students’ access to affordable food and housing. This report provides the results of the fall 2018 survey of 123 two-year and four-year institutions of higher education.

New Evidence on Basic Needs Insecurity and Student Well-Being. As the nation gradually loosens COVID-19 restrictions, the far-reaching impacts of the pandemic and nationwide closures continue. A Hope Center survey, conducted this past spring during the U.S. lockdown in response to the pandemic, assessed the effects on students’ basic needs. The survey, which included responses from 38,602 students attending 54 colleges and universities in 26 states, found that an alarmingly high number of students experienced basic needs insecurity after their colleges closed. In addition to the report, an infographic is available.

Resources to Guide Institutions in Supporting Students Facing Basic Needs Insecurity. The Hope Center has released a Beyond the Food Pantry Series to support college students during the pandemic and related closures. The following guides focus on food and housing insecurities:

Connecting to Opportunity: Lessons on Adapting Interventions for Young People Experiencing Homelessness or Systems Involvement. This report from MDRC describes the Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential (LEAP)TM initiative, a nationwide project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that aims to improve education and employment outcomes for young people ages 15 to 25 who have been involved in the child welfare and justice systems or who are experiencing homelessness. The program serves as a model for supporting college students facing similar insecurities.

Gap years and stop-outs

Spring 2020 Survey of College Students by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and the American Council on Education (ACE). A survey administered during March and April 2020 to more than 2,000 enrolled college students in the United States found that 17% of respondents were either uncertain of or definitely not returning to college in the fall. At the same time, despite the abrupt switch to online classes and remote learning, 82% of students reported they would complete all or most of their spring courses as initially planned. This survey does not include students graduating prior to the fall 2020 term.

Gap Year Association National Alumni Survey Report. This 2015 report, published by the Gap Year Association at Temple University's Institute for Survey Research, details the experiences of students who took gap years, including how taking a gap year influenced their life before, during, and after college. The report finds that, on average, students who opted to take a gap year experienced a shorter time to college graduation and had higher grade point averages than the national average.