Eduvation Blog

Insider Archive – April 2020

Check out all of our COVID-19 coverage and analysis.  Subscribe FREE!

This archive reproduces our email updates in reverse-chronological order for the month of April 2020.


Thursday April 30, 2020

Well, Japan has acknowledged that the Tokyo Summer Olympics, already postponed until next summer, may have to wait until 2022 because of COVID19. And in Canada, business confidence is at an all-time record low with no hope for improvement for at least 6 months. Canadian farmers have frozen 200 million pounds of potatoes because restaurants won’t need french fries. Why should higher ed be any different?


Provincial Updates

New Brunswick has already started easing some restrictions, allowing 2-household “bubbles,” and some students back on PSE campuses in certain circumstances.

PEI will allow some medical services, construction and outdoor activities starting May 1, although gatherings are still limited to 5 people.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have announced reopening plans starting May 4, with some medical services and recreational facilities. Gatherings will stay restricted to 10 people for some time.

Quebec will begin reopening elementary schools, daycares, and selected research labs in mid-May, but PSE remains closed until September.

BC may allow elective surgeries and partially open restaurants as early as May.

Ontario has unveiled its roadmap but with no indication of a start date, and schools and non-essential businesses remain closed.

Alberta, Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland & Labrador still haven’t unveiled reopening plans at all. CTV



The Impact of Plagues on Academies

Pandemics have been rough on higher ed for centuries, but in their wake comes renewal and innovation too. Following the Black Death (c 1350), medieval universities suffered low enrolments for decades, and one in six closed permanently. But new institutions proliferated, along with greater recognition of student rights, vernacular languages, and Italian humanism. In the 17th century, curing smallpox ushered in modern medical science. After both pandemics, governments and the public became more supportive of science and the academy, donations increased, and interest in educational alternatives grew. Edmund Adam believes the same will be true after COVID19. University Affairs

COVID19 Lessons for Campus Leaders

Leaders of 45 campuses across North America have learned the importance of delegating crisis management to mid-level staff, working groups and task forces, so that the executive team can turn to longer-term planning. Since campus stakeholders are overwhelmed by email, smart leaders are using weekly video messages and virtual town halls for greater impact. And forward-looking institutions are looking for post-COVID opportunities in online programs, external partnerships, and community engagement. EAB



Half of International Students Will Wait

A survey of 16,649 prospective international students interested in Canada found that only 15% are reconsidering study abroad because of COVID19, but 53% would delay starting classes if they cannot be taken in-person on campus. When pushed, 64% say they would take online classes if necessary, and 39% of those would prefer to move to Canada and study online here. University applicants were slightly more willing to study online, but also more likely to stay in their home country to do so. Academica

COVID19 and Perceptions of National Safety

The wide range in pandemic precautions and outcomes between nations will reshape global perceptions of national reputations and their safety as a study destination. OECD calculations suggest that higher ed in the US and UK could lose billions of dollars each, while Australia and Canada might lose only “hundreds of millions.” THE

“Catastrophic” Decline Predicted

Based on multiple surveys, consultants at Simpson Scarborough are predicting that 4-year colleges in the US will lose up to 20% of their enrolment this fall – not including international student losses. 10% of high school seniors have already changed their plans, and 26% of current college students are unsure they will return. Minority students are twice as likely (41%) to say they may not go to college at all this fall. As predicted, the results are worse after a full month of COVID19.  IHE

COVID19 is Heating Up Summer Melt

A new study of 1,171 US high school seniors has found that 17% of university applicants no longer plan to enrol full-time, even though 40% of them had already paid a deposit. More than half report that a parent has lost their job. Just days before the traditional May 1 deadline, 40% had not paid a deposit anywhere, and most expressed doubt about whether campuses will open this fall. 60% have “no interest” in enrolling for an online program, and 67% would expect to pay “much less” if they did. 16% plan to attend a community college instead, 17% plan to wait until spring 2021, and 16% plan to take a full gap year. The study provides trend data from March and April 2020. ArtSci

The Digital Divide in Canada

Even if students wanted to study online, reliable internet is unavailable to 14% of Canadians, 59% of rural Canadians, and 72% on First Nations reserves. Although the federal government has announced a $6 billion investment to achieve 100% coverage by 2030, as we saw yesterday, the pandemic lockdown is making broadband connectivity an essential service.  Tony Bates



Your Website as Recruiter and Advisor

For years now, institutional websites have been the #1 source of information for virtually all stakeholders – but with campuses closed to the public, they now need to replace campus visits and open houses too. Your website has to be “your leading recruiter, admissions counsellor, and advisor.” As always, start with clear admissions personas, determine their needs, and develop focused messaging. Clarify your differentiators, focus on employment outcomes and societal impact. Make personal connections using testimonials, videos, and social media. EAB

Wednesday April 29, 2020

The world just surpassed 3.1 million COVID19 cases, and the US 1 million. (Notably it took the US 80 days to get the first 500,000, and just 18 days to double it.) Canada is relatively fortunate to have just 50,000 cases so far, and several provinces are anxiously wondering if the pandemic wave has crested.

Around the world, prospective international students also seem to be holding their breath. A new survey finds 86% are postponing, cancelling, or unsure about their study abroad plans. As institutions launch virtual open houses online, geopolitical tensions threaten Australia’s recruitment of Chinese students. Some US residential colleges seem determined to open their campuses this fall at any cost to privacy, and the surveillance state envisioned by George Orwell may be getting a rapid boost from COVID anxiety, testing and contact tracing.



3 “Pandemic-Proof” Programs

After the Great Recession, students demonstrated intensified pragmatism and a focus on ROI in selecting PSE programs. We may expect something similar after the COVID19 recession. For years there has been steady enrolment growth in Biotechnology, Supply Chain Management, and Mental Health Counselling programs, and the pandemic will accelerate those trends. Institutions need to ensure, however, that their market isn’t already saturated with competing programs. Encoura

86% of International Prospects Hesitating

In late March and April, surveyed 7,400 prospective international students (largely bound for university grad/undergrad in 2020-23). Just 14% were unfazed by COVID19, while 42% were postponing study abroad, 5% were cancelling their plans, and 39% simply weren’t sure. Only 5% were planning on pursuing an online degree, although 45% said they were willing to consider online study. Only 8% of those already studying abroad indicated that they were cancelling their studies due to COVID19, although 20% were postponing study and 41% were unsure. The majority already studying abroad would be willing to continue their program online. Educations

China Warns Australia of a Boycott

A dozen Australian universities have already announced losses of $3 billion as COVID19 halted Chinese enrolments. Now, Australia’s support for an independent inquiry into the origins of the Coronavirus may spark retaliation from China, or at least hesitation among Chinese parents, warns the Chinese ambassador to Australia. (Apparently, “veiled threats about student flows are part of the sabre rattling during political disputes.”) THE

An Online Fall would be “Catastrophic”

Campuses “must” reopen this fall, says Christina Paxton, president of Brown University, or else American “higher education will crumble,” with “catastrophic” losses, damage to local economies, and many institutions forced to close permanently. She urges a “heavy-handed approach to public health,” with aggressive COVID19 testing of all students, mobile apps for contact tracing, mandatory face masks, and off-campus hotel rooms for isolation and quarantine. NY Times



Tracing Contacts in Australia

Speaking of mobile apps for contact tracing, more than 2 million Australians downloaded CovidSafe within hours of its release on Sunday. The app uses Bluetooth for “digital handshakes” with other users, and if they spend more than 15 minutes within 1.5 metres of each other, they exchange an encrypted ID code which is stored for 21 days. Australia Dept of Health

And speaking of mass surveillance…

Ubiquitous Online Surveillance

With the abrupt migration to online platforms for class discussion and exam invigilation, concerns have inevitably been rising about privacy, security and the surveillance state. Alexander Kafka (nothing ominous about that!) observes that oppressive regimes already monitor online discussions by faculty and students, and that right-wing movements are urging students to “expose radicalism” by sharing video of their professors. Some worry that institutions may start tracking the productivity of faculty and staff, particularly as they start to consider downsizing. The pandemic “is exactly the kind of historical moment when insidious practices become mainstreamed.” Chronicle

Broadband as Fundamental Human Right

The digital divide is leaving rural and lower-income students in the lurch as education migrates online. Interacting with friends, family, teachers, co-workers, retail stores, libraries, news media and even governments increasingly demands reliable internet connectivity. Even more than a nationalized post office, broadband internet has become a necessity of life, but nearly a third of US households are left out. “Lifeline” is an FCC subsidy program that many would like to see expanded, although it has been cut by 40% under the current administration. Wired


COVID19 Updates

Contingency planning: More and more institutions are making explicit that they are planning for a range of contingencies this fall, from purely online to blended to traditional on-campus delivery, but that the decision will ultimately rest with provincial health authorities. In the past few days statements have been made by Dalhousie, MSVU, uOttawa, UoGuelph, Ryerson, Redeemer, and uVic.

Dalhousie president Deep Saini described the significant uncertainties about fall enrolment, and hence budget, in his message on Monday. All budgets are being reviewed to ensure that only required new spending is undertaken, and to identify measures to reduce costs where possible (including travel, utilities, on-campus supplies, external contracting, and non-essential hiring or renewal of contract employees). Facilities work is being deferred where possible. Dal

Quebec will allow some academic research labs (in health, natural science and selected fields) to reopen as early as this week, prompting McGill and uLaval to start preparing campus for the return of some researchers.  McGill  |  Laval

NBCC has finally announced that its June graduation ceremony cannot take place as usual. The president is inviting suggestions for other ways to celebrate. NBCC



Brock U launched its “Virtual Open House” this weekend, complete with introductory speeches, 360° virtual campus tours, faculty-specific videos and information, live recruiter chats, and door prizes. Recruiters will continue to connect with prospective students using webinars, chats and Instagram Q&As throughout the week. The site will come down June 1, the deadline to accept offers in Ontario. Brock

St Lawrence College launched a “Virtual Showcase” of program presentations this week, including recorded presentations, live Q&A, advising appointments and campus tours, in what its president calls “one of the biggest innovative pivots for the college.” SLC

SFU has launched a weekly video series, “Change Makers,” in which VP Research & International Joy Johnson interviews (remotely) researchers, particularly related to the COVID19 pandemic. SFU



Tuesday April 28, 2020

With about 60,000 COVID-19 deaths in North America, and funerals prohibited by social distancing requirements, it’s no wonder we’ve gone from toilet paper shortages to sold-out “sympathy” cards. Ontario’s Stratford Festival cancelled its entire 2020 season yesterday, while (shockingly) Quebec announced it would re-open daycares and elementary schools starting May 19.  “Life needs to continue,” said premier François Legault.

Current PSE students might agree, although not if it’s online: their summer internships are evaporating and half are not sure they want to return to online classes this fall. Campus leaders are growing more concerned about the low-income and underrepresented students being left behind by the abrupt shift to online instruction, while online tools help them negotiate increases in financial aid, and the move to online examinations may actually improve their learning outcomes.


Supporting Students

Concerns about Low-Income Students

Hanover Research repeated its March survey one month later, asking 187 US college and university presidents about concerns, actions taken and expected. More than half have made new investments in online learning and emergency response, and about a third in student mental health (which is the overall top concern). About half never plan to undo those new investments, even though 47% expect to return to in-person classes and athletics by September. 68% are “very concerned” about the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on low-income and underrepresented students. Many of the findings echo the study last month, although respondents now seem more concerned about strengthening brand perceptions and institutional partnerships. IHE

Streamlining Financial Aid Appeals

SwiftStudent is a new web tool offering US students eligibility information and free customizable financial aid appeal letters for federal aid. It encourages negotiation to exclude parental contributions, consider childcare, computer or disability accommodations, or ask for emergency COVID19 aid. It has foundation funding, and partners include NASFAA and a dozen student success organizations. SwiftStudent

Summer Internships Evaporate

A survey of 900 US college students found that 35% have had a summer internship cancelled, and 24% have been told it will be virtual. (Analysts expect those numbers to increase in the next few weeks.) They also offer some advice about interacting and managing those virtual interns. Yello

Online Fall would Impact Retention

A panel of 1,133 current Canadian PSE students surveyed April 6-13 found that 29% who had previously planned to return this fall are now unsure they will enroll, and 10% report they definitely will not, if classes are fully online. College students are significantly more reluctant: just 49% would be prepared to return. Concerns include the quality of learning, their own motivation and focus, and their ability to stay on top of readings and assignments. 25% are concerned about having the necessary technology and internet connection, and some emphasize the need for asynchronous options. Academica


Online Evaluations

Teacher Evaluations with a Twist

Quite a few Canadian institutions announced that course/teacher evaluations would not take place this term, due to the disruption in delivery modes (but admittedly I did not track just how many). A new survey of 176 US colleges has found that just 10% suspended evaluations, although 45% altered the questions to some degree, and 75% planned to make different use of the results. 40% planned to exclude results from tenure/promotion processes, and 11% planned to make results available only to instructors. Campus Intelligence

Lasting Benefits of Online Exams

The shift to remote assessment may have lasting benefits beyond the COVID19 pandemic. Australia’s University of New England was already making the shift to remote invigilation of exams, and over the past few years has saved $60,000 while also seeing a 2% increase in student retention. Online proctoring technologies include webcam observation, eyeball tracking, facial recognition and biometrics – and may ultimately provide better assurance of academic integrity than a traditional exam hall. UNE even offers “exams on demand,” allowing students to decide themselves when they are ready to sit for the test. THE


Campus Leadership

Shared Governance Remains Crucial

Faculty and administration alike are right to worry “about the long-term viability of our institutions as we know them, and of our jobs,” but both groups will need to work together in partnership to cope with the pandemic and its fallout, write two former administrators. Faculty have transformed their teaching overnight. Administrators are trying “to squeeze fiscal viability from the lemon of lost revenues.” The year ahead may well require major rethinking of curricula, teaching and learning, hiring, promotion and tenure. What is required immediately is better communication: “the shared governance system should not be suspended, but its timelines and conventional processes might need to adapt.” Chronicle

Think Twice before Cutting PD

A 2017 survey of 2577 higher ed professionals concluded that greater access to professional development would reduce turnover by 71% of employees, and that improvement leadership development would address the reason 75% of employees leave. A culture of professional development and growth contributes to 3x the job satisfaction – but staff perceive half as much commitment to PD as their leaders do. (Full disclosure, I have a vested interest in this, as do the folks at Academic Impressions, since we both offer virtual PD programming.) Academic Impressions


Marketing Lab

Community Video Series at Ontario Tech

Ontario Tech has launched a new series, “Working Apart, Coming Together,” to highlight the ways in which students, faculty and staff have been stepping up to help the community cope with COVID19. YouTube



Monday April 27, 2020

As some provinces start to flatten the COVID19 curve, Canadians are starting to relax – although our kids still seem plenty anxious about being confined at home with their parents!  SK, BC and NB have started to map out multi-phase plans to “reopen,” although there’s no expectation that things can be back to normal by September. South of the border, US colleges are starting to play dirty to recruit the class of 2024. And in my latest blog, I share 10 tips to be more professional in your next webconference!


Quick Hits

UNB’s campuses remain closed to the public, but limited practicum and research lab activities are now permitted to resume, if they serve essential programs, under strict guidelines. UNB

Redeemer UC implemented temporary layoffs a few weeks ago, but has suspended those layoffs since the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy will cover up to 75% of those wages. Redeemer

Nipissing U will provide temporary residence accommodations to North Bay Regional Health Centre workers, to allow them to self-isolate from their families. (So far 7 institutions on my list have announced emergency housing.) Nipissing

Red River College has transitioned trades and technology programs to online delivery, using simulated CNC milling, automotive repair videos, and other online tools. RRC


Pandemic Trends

Canadian Concerns Plateau?

A series of 18 public opinion polls this year reveal that Canadians were slow to worry about COVID19: in early February, 70% of Canadians thought the threat was “overblown.” In the latter half of March, Canadians’ concern skyrocketed. Now as we wind up April, levels of concern seem to be plateauing or even declining as we start “flattening the curve.” 17%-25% of Canadians think it’s time to start lifting restrictions now, and almost half think we should do so as soon as things are manageable in the healthcare system. PollingGuru

Youth Fear Confinement more than COVID

On Friday, StatsCan provided early results from a “crowdsourced” survey of 200,000 Canadians conducted April 3-9. 80% were very anxious about overloading the health system. Just 23% of 15 to 24-year-olds were very concerned about their own health, although 41% were very concerned about stress from confinement at home. (Reminds me of MADD’s research finding that teens feared losing their license and becoming dependent upon parents again, more than potential death or injury from drunk driving. Most youth don’t grasp mortality.) About 95% of youth did report that they were avoiding leaving the house, attending large gatherings or entering crowds.  StatsCan


Returning to Campus

 The nature and timing of a return to campus will depend on orders from provincial health authorities, which will advance and retreat in phases to manage the burden on the healthcare system. (Last week we looked at 15 different approaches to a “low-density” approach, using blended delivery and potentially alternating shifts of students on campus. We also looked at the 5-phase “Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.”)

Discussions Begin in BC

uVic president Jamie Cassels provided some detail of contingency planning in his video on Friday: “The good news is that the provincial health authorities have invited organizations to begin to think about plans for the next stage of managing through the COVID-19 crisis, and in a very careful and phased way opening up a little bit from the restrictions that we’ve all been experiencing for the past several weeks. The bad news is that that is not going to happen quickly and it’s not simply a return to business as usual.” uVic

NB begins to Open Up

With just 11 active COVID19 cases in the province, the government of New Brunswick announced on Friday the first steps to move from “Red Alert” to “Orange Alert,” opening up golf, fishing and hunting, parks and beaches, outdoor religious services, “two-household bubbles,” and limited PSE. (Large gatherings are still prohibited through December 31.) UNB clarified that at the moment, only practicum and research labs are reopening, under strict guidelines. NB  |  UNB


Recruiting Trends

The Recruiting Gloves Come Off

Facing growing concerns about fall enrolment, US colleges are resorting to previously banned recruiting tactics like sweepstakes entries, free summer classes, free parking, prime dorm rooms, and prime timetables (ie, no early morning classes). By coincidence, the US Justice Dept overturnedanticompetitive parts of the NACAC code of ethics, just in time for COVID19 desperation. Many colleges are reopening to applications, and will be trying to lure away committed students well after the traditional cutoff date in a “bidding war” with aggressive scholarship offers. Hechinger

Beware, Mid-Market Institutions

Higher ed administrators face big challenges this fall, says uPenn’s Alan Ruby. Most campuses will open – but likely offering online or blended courses, with smaller, socially-distanced classes. Enrolment will depend on travel restrictions, entry visas, and competitive scholarship offers. Top tier institutions can comfortably depend on financial reserves and dip deeper into their waiting lists, while local small-town campuses will gain from proximity to home. The “middle band” of tuition-dependent institutions in crowded regional markets will be hardest hit, he predicts. IHE   


Marketing Lab

National COVID19 Hackathon

Last week, 500 participants from across Canada took part in a 48-hour hackathon, #TogetherVsVirus, to co-develop useful and creative technology solutions to community COVID19 challenges. From 23 finalists, the jury selected 6 projects: Allyship (trauma-sensitive care website), E-safe (AI approach to social distancing in manufacturing), Heropool (carpooling app for frontline workers), My Health Risk(burnout survey), Spring Out (for victims of domestic violence), and Soci’s Hunt (a blockchain volunteer rewards platform). Sponsors of the hackathon included BCIT and UFV. (Dalhousie plans a similar COVID19 Hackathon on May 4-6.) TogetherVsVirus


Friday April 24, 2020

The pandemic is prompting layoffs and campus closures in Canada now, causing PTSD and generalized anxiety, impacting UK enrolments and US budgets – and a second wave is almost a certainty this fall. Parents and CFOs alike are uncomfortable, while campus leaders are learning they need to measure their words carefully – or invent entirely new “coronaspeak.” (I’m probably not alone in gaining “the COVID 19.”)


Quick Hits

Seneca College reported its first COVID19 case on Wednesday, a residence staff person. Seneca

NorQuest College has announced it is closing 2 satellite campuses in Whitecourt and Drayton Valley AB, citing increased demand for online courses. NorQuest

Université Laval has temporarily laid off 600 contract employees in campus services, events, athletics, and career placement services. Le Journal

Ryerson’s COVID19 Student Relief Fund has dispersed $3 million to 4,000 students. Ryerson

Mohawk College launched a COVID19 Emergency Bursary this week. Mohawk

Algonquin College admitted Wednesday that a return to class by July 6 is “unlikely,” but still hope to do so “on a case-by-case basis much later this summer or in early fall.” Algonquin

Saskatchewans “Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan” will allow gatherings of up to 15 people in phase 3 (date TBD), but waits until phase 4 to raise the limit to 30. (Phase 5 contemplates lifting all remaining restrictions.) SK


Pandemic Trends

COVID19’s Psychological Impacts

A uSherbrooke study of 600 Canadians April 8-11 reports that 25.4% already suffer from probable generalized anxiety, and 25.5% from probable PTSD, as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Even though Quebec has been hit harder by the disease, Quebecers apparently experience lower stress, possibly because they trust authorities more. uSherbrooke

A Second Wave of COVID19

Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health observed that although the curve is flattening, we have not achieved herd immunity and therefore a second wave is likely. In Washington, CDC Director Robert Redfield warned Americans on Wednesday that a second wave of COVID19 next winter would coincide with flu season and pose a much greater challenge to the healthcare system. He urges everyone to get a flu shot this year. CTV | CDC

Significant UK declines predicted

A London Economics report for the UK’s University and College Union predicts a 47% decline in international and EU enrolments next year, and 16% domestically. As a result, they calculate a loss of 231,895 students, Ł2.6 billion, and 30,000 jobs for UK higher ed. Younger, less prestigious institutions will actually be less at risk, because they are less dependent upon international enrolment. THE

90% of Parents are Uncomfortable

A survey of 389 parents of US college students conducted April 10-14 found general dissatisfaction with current remote learning, and that 36% are concerned about their child’s mental health. 90% are not comfortable with their child returning for more remote learning this fall, although just 40% say their child is unlikely to return. Tyton Partners

PSE Budget & Liquidity Measures

The EAB surveyed more than 100 PSE finance leaders in Canada, the US and UK, and found that 86% of COVID19 costs to date have been student refunds. The most common cost-cutting measures include freezes on travel, hiring, salaries, and discretionary purchasing, as well as delaying capital projects. 46% expect reductions in contract employees, 41% furloughs, and 21% layoffs. The most common liquidity strategies include seeking emergency public funding and donor campaigns, new lines of credit and endowment draws. EAB


Marketing Lab

Watch Your Words!

The Provost of Cal State Fullerton learned the hard way this week that her statements at the institution’s first-ever town hall would get plenty of attention. Pamella Oliver intended to say that CSF was planning for the worst this fall, but what NPR, the Chronicle, and other national media reported was that CSF was the first institution in North America to announce that it had decided to deliver the fall term online. (Since I repeated this in yesterday’s issue, I thought I should set the record straight.) CSUF

Make Up Some Words

Tony Thorne, a linguist at King’s College London, has catalogued more than 1,000 neologisms he calls “Coronaspeak.” Some particularly useful additions to my vocabulary: “covidiot,” “flu bro,” “the COVID 19 (lbs),” “coronalusional,” “infodemic,” and “ronavation.” KCL

The Show Must Go On

Congratulations to Sheridan College, which was just ranked #1 in the Animation Career Reviewinternational rankings – and also to their graduating Music Theatre Performance students, who happened to be rehearsing the ideal musical when the world got shut down by COVID19. In Real Life is set in a dystopian society in which citizens are confined to cubes – so it lends itself perfectly to production via Zoom, and takes on a whole new resonance. Sheridan



Thursday April 23, 2020

Yesterday we saw $9 billion of good news for students in the new CESB and CSSG. Hopefully that gives us all sufficient resolve to look squarely at the challenges we’ll be facing this fall, and some of the strategic options available. Clearly we will still be social distancing, in some fashion, throughout the entire 2020-21 academic year. And as I’ve pointed out previously, many applicants will opt to defer enrolment until they can expect the full student experience. But check out 15 different ways in which we could attain a “low-density campus,” and some promising non-traditional program ideas…

Returning to Normal?

Social Distancing into 2021

Earlier this week, BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry warned that some COVID19 restrictions will need to remain in place for a year or more, particularly those regarding gatherings of more than 50 people. This will have significant implications for travel, hospitality, entertainment, athletics, and yes, higher education. (She said universities might move to a more virtual model.) CTV

30% may take a Gap Year

A quick panel study of 390 Canadian applicants found they were “excited” about the year ahead, but also “nervous, anxious, uncertain, worried, and scared.” 65% were concerned their program might be delivered online, and 30% were uncertain they would attend PSE at all this fall. Applicants were generally satisfied with the communications received from institutions, but will be looking for clear guidance. Academica Group

Segregating Young & Old

In the US, Cal State Fullerton announced this week that they will definitely start the fall semester online. Indiana’s Purdue University, on the other hand, declared it would not “surrender helplessly” to COVID19, but plans to test all students and staff using its own labs, and to segregate those under and over age 35. “Even a phenomenon as menacing as COVID19 is one of the inevitable risks of life,” says Purdue’s president. (Most institutions expect their decisions for the fall term to become clearer in the next 4-6 weeks.) Chronicle

Campus as Sanatorium?

Two writers dislike the “thin pedagogical gruel” of online learning so much that they propose “responsibly” reopening campuses in September, allowing older faculty and staff to “step away for a year on furlough pay,” building campus infirmaries, testing students frequently for COVID19, and restricting their movements off-campus. (It’s a decidedly dystopian idea, based on poor science and poor understanding of pedagogy.)  IHE

15 Degrees of Social Separation

Joshua Kim and Edward Maloney summarize 15 approaches to a “low-density” institution this fall (most of which I’ve mentioned in the past few weeks): back to normal, a late start, a spring start, first-years only, grad students only, structured gap years, targeted programs only, blended delivery, split curriculum, a block plan, modular semesters, low-residency, HyFlex, online lectures, or fully remote. IHE


Dealing with Money

A Tsunami of COVID19 Litigation

A month ago, I wrote about some of the legal challenges institutions could expect to face by the fall. After speaking to more than a dozen US legal experts, the Chronicle forecasts a “tsunami of college litigation and insurance claims” in the billions of dollars. Already breach-of-contract lawsuits seek refunds for room and board, and for tuition fees. Premature campus openings, like Liberty University’s reopening after spring break, could leave institutions liable for putting students at risk, and legal issues may arise around accreditations, accommodations, discrimination and more. Chronicle

Entrepreneurial Institutions

On the upside of the financial statement, institutions need to maximize new revenue streams post-COVID more than ever. My (pre-COVID) cover article in the League for Innovation in the Community College’s journal, Innovatus, summarizes dozens of entrepreneurial options, from monetizing affinity and leveraging your campus, to commercializing academic activity and pursuing new markets. Innovatus

New Program Ideas

Intead observes that new programming should include online graduate degrees and certificates, and short-cycle upskilling opportunities for non-traditional students. Tuition discounts might help retain upper-year students, eager to get to graduation. Some kind of “independent study” offering, internships, and networking opportunities with alumni might appeal to all the incoming undergraduates who are seriously considering a gap year – but likely need to be offered at a fraction of typical tuition.  Intead

Free Tuition at SNHU this Fall

Southern New Hampshire University, with 132,000 students, will offer all incoming on-campus freshmen a scholarship covering 100% of tuition for 2020-21.  It is also experimenting with new online, hybrid, and project-based delivery modalities. SNHU


Marketing Lab

To Spend or Not to Spend?

There is a lively debate in marketing circles, about whether investing in brand advertising during a recession is sound strategy, or whether advertising in the midst of a pandemic is in poor taste. Even major consumer goods marketers disagree. P&G says it will be “doubling down” on brand-building. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, says it is “pausing” its brand marketing campaigns. Strategy

Presidential Dialogue video

Instead of the typical presidential message video (of which you can see hundreds on my playlist here), NBCC president Mary Butler released an interview video yesterday with Student Union president Lexi Keast. The effect, of course, is more dynamic and of course they address some top questions from students. NBCC



Wednesday April 22, 2020

It’s Earth Day, and also “Wellness Wednesday” on many campuses. I’m particularly impressed that OCAD University is encouraging its employees to take Wednesday afternoons as an “offline” time to take care of personal matters. OCADU

Employee News

 Layoffs at Conestoga, uCalgary

Conestoga College has just laid off 119 permanent part-time employees, largely front-line workers. uCalgary has reached an agreement with AUPE regarding reduced hours and temporary layoffs.  Conestoga  |  uCalgary

Presidential Priorities & Concerns

A recent IHE/Hanover Research survey of 172 US college presidents found that top concerns include mental and physical health of students and employees, immediate costs, student attrition, and accessibility of online learning tools. The biggest challenges in the shift to online delivery include student engagement, training faculty, ensuring student access, and maintaining academic standards. 89% were concerned about financial stability and declining enrolment. Wiley

Fully Utilizing Staff at Home

The EAB suggests that central HR departments create a comprehensive process to redeploy underutilized campus staff to priority areas (like remote learning, financial aid, or admissions). Managers should identify new tasks (such as analyzing historical data, maintaining data and files, or offering support to other units). At a minimum, staff downtime should be used for PD like LinkedIn Learning or MOOCs. EAB


Tuition Developments

80% of Students Worried

A new survey by Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities polled 3,157 students at 64 institutions, and found 83% do not qualify for the CERB, 79% are worried about being able to pay tuition this fall, and 73% are worried about paying rent through the summer. UCRU

Aussie Tuitions Overpriced?

Stephen Parker, former uCanberra president turned KPMG consultant, argues that high costs to attend Australian universities have turned them into “luxury brands” that are priced out of the Chinese market. Study visa applications from China and India have been dropping. Canada’s PGWP and CERB make it a particularly strong competitor. He recommends slashing international tuitions. THE

Defer tuition for a year?

Yesterday, North Carolina’s Davidson College became the first to announce that students can defer tuition for the Fall 2020 term up to a full year: tuition bills will be issued in July 2021, and payment can wait until August 2021. Davidson


Fall Scenarios

Multiple Scenarios at Carleton

Benoit-Antoine Bacon observed in his message yesterday that the pandemic may be reaching its peak in Ontario, but that Carleton will be planning for “a broad array of scenarios” this fall. “While it is too early to speculate about what September will look like exactly, it is difficult to imagine a return to full international mobility, and a complete lifting of physical distancing measures that would allow the return of large gatherings in confined spaces.” Carleton

Algonquin hopes for July 6

The same day across town, Algonquin College president Claude Brulé wrote in his message to campus, “While we still hope that we will be able to return to face-to-face instruction on July 6, our Academic teams are meeting regularly to discuss possible alternative dates and scenarios.” Algonquin


Quick Hits

uLeth Cuts Hockey

Citing budget issues, the University of Lethbridge announced yesterday that it is eliminating its Pronghorn men’s and women’s hockey teams. CBC

OER Textbooks at UPEI

The UPEI Student Union convinced the province to provide $25,000 for a one-year OER textbook pilot project. UA

98% of Libraries Closed

Thank you to Kwantlen’s Chris Burns for updating our spreadsheet: virtually all library facilities are now physically closed.


Marketing Lab

For-Profit Boom Times?

Large online for-profit universities like Capella, Phoenix, and Strayer are ramping up their advertising spends, anticipating another recession will again boost their enrolments. COVID19-themed campaigns promise “flexible education for uncertain times” and tell students they are “online, but never on your own.” Some are even offering 50% off tuition, or free tuition for selected students. AP

Speaking of Pandemic Ads

Youtuber “Microsoft Sam” wryly observes that dozens of commercials referencing COVID19 are virtually interchangeable, and he demonstrates it in this 3-minute compilation. “Cue sombre piano music” and “stock b-roll footage,” “in uncertain times” “our priority is people and families,” “we’ll get through this,” and “we’re here for you.” YouTube

Rise Again, Nova Scotia

Although Cape Breton U planned to share a collaborative recording of their official song, “Rise Again,” at their virtual convocation in May, they decided to release it early as a message of optimism and support to a province reeling in shock from the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. It features solos by honorary degree recipients Ashley MacIsaac and the Barra MacNeils, among others. YouTube


Tuesday April 21, 2020

Globally we’re at 2.5 million cases of COVID19, and Canada at about 37,000. The price of oil is astoundingly now negative, because “there literally isn’t any place to put the stuff.” Welcome to the new normal!

In higher ed, more institutions are openly planning for the worst come September. uMichigan anticipates a billion-dollar loss, and uAlberta has circulated 3 possible scenarios for Fall, which are worth a look.


Money Woes

uMichigan faces $1 Billion loss

The president of uMichigan estimates losses between $400 M and $1 B this year, thanks to COVID19’s impact on its hospitals and clinics. UM is implementing voluntary furloughs, has frozen construction and hiring, and senior leaders will cut their salaries 5-10%. Students have launched a lawsuit seeking refunds of residence and tuition fees. uMichiganLawsuit

Draconian cuts in Manitoba?

Manitoba’s PC government has asked its universities to submit scenarios by today showing cost-cutting of 10%, 20% and 30% over the next 4 months. The institutions say they are struggling to meet growing demands from students. Faculty associations call the cuts “draconian,” and observe that the government is proposing to “demolish the storm shelter” when it is needed most. CBC

Fundraisers grow uneasy

A new survey of 415 advancement professionals found that 43% do not expect to reach their fundraising goals this year. They voiced concern about the volatile economy, about sounding “out of touch” making their case during a pandemic, and about virtual means to connect with donors. Washburn McGoldrick


Fall Scenarios

Modularizing the Semester

Beloit College in Wisconsin is perhaps best known for the “Mindset List” (which recently moved on to Marist College) – but they are generating other creative ideas too. Responding to the uncertainty of COVID19 shutdowns this Fall, they decided (in less than a week!) to break 4-course semesters into 2-course modules this year. If part of the term is online, students and faculty won’t have to deal with 4 online courses at once; and if campus can open for part of the term, students will be able to attend full courses in person. IHE

uWaterloo plans for an Online Fall

Yesterday, uWaterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur advised staff and faculty that, “like every university, college and school in the country, none of us can predict with confidence what the situation will be in September… For now, we must build full plans for the Fall Term to happen at a distance.” Staff

Likewise York U advised students that “classes for the 2020-2021 academic year will begin in September even if courses need to be delivered wholly or partially through remote instruction.” York

3 Scenarios for uAlberta

uAlberta announced a Fall 2020 Planning Group and 6 subgroups to begin planning based on 3 scenarios. All 3 assume “some form of physical distancing” in the Fall, multiple enrolment declines, economic challenges, and government support for infrastructure renewal but not emergency financial assistance. Two scenarios assume NO international students on campus. The document notes the difficulty of shifting delivery mode mid-way through a semester, and the intent to “share and create programming” with peer institutions across Canada.  uAlberta

On the other hand, uOttawa’s update yesterday said they are “developing scenarios to be ready to return to normal or near-normal operations on campus as soon as circumstances permit. Again, we do not know how long the crisis will last, but the University must be ready to resume when public health directives allow.” uOttawa


Jamming about Marketing

It was my pleasure recently to speak with Darian Kovacs of Jelly Digital Marketing, on his podcast “Marketing Jam,” about my own eccentric career path, some favourite books, COVID19, cautionary tales, and current trends in higher ed marketing, from CRMs and conversational marketing to campus ambassadors, brand positioning and UGC (and I give some shoutouts to SFU, Royal Roads, NSCC, MUN and others). Jelly


Campus Updates

Yesterday afternoon, Centennial College announced a pass/withdraw grading option for students in select programs. (Now 58% of institutions) Centennial



Monday April 20, 2020

American institutions have been announcing billions of dollars in COVID19 losses, and furloughed or laid off thousands of employees – and now Canadian institutions are starting to discuss similar measures. Some students are refusing to pay full tuition for online courses, and half a dozen Canadian institutions are starting to admit that may be how we deliver classes this Fall. Plus, I’m not alone in suggesting we might see a “double cohort” bulge in Fall 2021…

Financial Challenges

 As usual, higher ed south of the border faces more extreme challenges before we see them reach Canada – but we will likely see similar measures here on a smaller scale… 

 Losses & Cuts for US Publics

As usual, higher ed south of the border faces more extreme challenges before we see them reach Canada (but we will likely see similar measures here on a smaller scale). Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are bracing for a cut of $70-$100 M this spring, and a state politician is talking about potential closures. The uCaliforniasystem spent $560 M on COVID19 in March, and lost an estimated $100 M in revenue. Vermont State Colleges are projecting a 15-20% decline in enrolment this fall, and considering closing 3 campuses and cutting 500 jobs. uArizona announced 5-20% pay cuts and furloughs due to a projected $250 M loss from COVID19. (Losses could double if students do not return to campus in the fall.)

Temporary Layoffs at uAlberta

uAlberta has reached an agreement with its Non-Academic Staff Association for temporary layoffs of up to 120 days, during which employees can access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. uAlberta

Analogies to the Great Depression

US higher ed historian John Thelin observes that campuses in the 1930s became a barter economy, with faculty teaching for IOUs and students often going hungry. The challenge now is that PSE has been “overextended” for a decade, with a massive investment in research infrastructure that has been forced to go idle. Chronicle


Enrolment Threats

COVID Double-Cohort, Redux

David Trick, interim CEO of HEQCO, was intrigued by my suggestion back on April 8 that because of deferrals this fall, we could see a dip in enrolments followed by a surge of pent-up demand for a year or two post-COVID. David observes that this time around, we don’t have 4 years’ notice, nor $900 M in capital growth funding, nor clarity about student behaviours to project enrolment. He also observes that a rebound in applications, whenever it comes, may create competition between domestic and international applicants. HEQCO

Tuition Strike at uChicago?

More than 1,000 uChicago students have signed a petition demanding that spring tuition, averaging US$57,000, be cut in half due to the shift to online instruction. They claim at least 350 students will refuse to pay tuition if it is not reduced this month. CBS Chicago


Early Indicators for Fall

A week ago, most PSE leaders were still talking optimistically about a return to normal this September. But more and more are planning for the worst: an online winter term. 

An AACRAO survey of 262 (largely American) institutions found that 58% are considering or have decided to remain fully online this fall, 45% report a decline in new student applications and registrations, and 20% report an increase in application withdrawals. AACRAO

George Brown College updated their FAQs last week to say: “We are currently modifying our on-campus activities to ensure your experience will continue to meet our high standards. In the fall, some classes and services may be delivered fully or partially through alternative delivery, for example.” GBC FAQs

UBC president Santa Ono announced on Friday that summer terms 1 and 2 will be delivered online only, and that “we are actively planning for how we might teach in the Fall semester.” UBC

Brock president Gervan Fearon observed in his message Friday that “We are close to completing an academic plan for the Fall term and expect to be in a position to announce this soon.” Brock

Kwantlen president Alan Davis observed on Friday that “We have settled into a “new normal,” and we don’t anticipate significant change any time soon.  That is why we decided to deliver all our summer programs remotely.  And it is why we are now undertaking scenario planning for the fall semester.” KPU

Laurier noted in an announcement on Saturday that “on-campus activities may be modified” this Fall, and “classes may be delivered fully or partially through remote instruction” but “your Laurier experience will continue this September.” WLU


Campus Updates

(See our Full Datasheet for details. New additions: Athabasca University, UNBC, and Fleming College.)

NSCC president Don Bureaux observed in his update Friday night that there have now been “a few” confirmed COVID19 cases within their community. NSCC

uSask is prepared to commit its 120,000 sqft Merlis Belsher complex to become a field hospital for 250 patients. uSask

Several more institutions have announced COVID19 emergency student bursaries. (Now 54 on our list, or 62%)

Red River College announced a credit/not complete grading option on Saturday. (Now 56% of our list) RRC

Hopefully we’ll have some more upbeat ideas to share tomorrow. Stay tuned… and stay well!


Friday April 17, 2020

We’re now at more than 2 million COVID19 cases in the world, 672,000 in the US and 30,000 in Canada, and the pandemic lockdown has led to 22 million unemployment claims in the US, and almost 4 million applications for the CERB. But it’s Friday, so let’s focus on more positive stuff…

Student Wellness Care Packages

VIU’s student wellness promoters are delivering 225 care packages to students in residence and in local homestays, including stress balls, granola bars, popcorn, tea, sudoku games, colouring sheets, and more. VIU Cares

“Convocation in a Box”

This June, uLethbridge will ship graduates their parchment, a cap and tassel, a commemorative program, alumni pin, Indigenous stole if requested, and honour cords for those graduating with distinction. Students are encouraged to post photos to social media with the hashtag #uleth2020 (and to attend a convocation ceremony sometime in the next 3 years). uLeth

Scenario planning at Queen’s

Yesterday, Queen’s U announced a new COVID19 steering committee to do scenario planning for the 2020-21 academic year, and 7 sub-groups looking at key operational areas like academic regulations, research impacts, enrolment and remote delivery. They are to meet throughout April and provide strategic recommendations for the Principal and SLT to review in early May. ENC

SAT, ACT may go Online

Thanks to COVID19, the March, May, and now also June administrations of the SATs were cancelled for about a million students this year. “There are things more important than tests,” said the College Board CEO. He has just announced that the CB will offer a remote-proctored online version this fall, if high schools remain closed – and ACT has followed suit. Critics are concerned about both equity and academic integrity for an exam taken at home. Expect even more colleges to join the U California system and 1,100 others in going test-optional for the next year. Chronicle

Exponential Challenges come Fall

We may all have “muddled through” a couple of weeks of emergency online instruction, says the president of Southern New Hampshire U (one of the world’s largest non-profit online institutions). Come fall, however, the challenges will be exponential: faculty confusion, student attrition, inadequate technologies and supports, and equity issues. OPM providers are swamped with inquiries. THE

New MOOC on Resilient Teaching

The abrupt transition to “emergency remote teaching” in March was far from ideal; it was more like a “month of whack-a-mole,” say two academic innovation leaders at uMichigan. They are inviting input from faculty and instructors to help shape a new MOOC to be launched in May, “Resilient Teaching through Times of Crisis and Change.” IHE

Campus Updates:

UoGuelph announced yesterday that they will open residence spaces for emergency and healthcare workers looking to live apart from their families. (They join 4 institutions on our list who have announced, and 3 who are assessing.) UoGuelph

Yesterday, AUArts announced Pandemic Financial Relief Bursaries for current or graduating students, and scholarships for commissioned artworks. McMaster announced a new COVID19 Student Emergency Relief Fund. (Now 61%)

Yesterday MUN announced that it will be locking more buildings and tightening access, starting April 21. MUN

MUN’s Senate also announced yesterday that it is waiving the 70% grade average requirement for incoming NL undergraduates this coming academic year. MUN

NSCC announced yesterday that their spring and summer term will be delivered through online or distance learning. Work experience courses are under review. (Now 85%) NSCC

SAIT announced yesterday that students will in fact be given the option to convert a letter grade into CR, or withdraw from the course. (Now 57%) SAIT

(See our Full Datasheet for more.)


TGIF!  Hope your Friday goes smoothly, and you have a great weekend. Stay safe and stay well!


Thursday April 16, 2020

There’s a lot to share today: economic forecasts are gloomy, students are antsy, MOOCs are booming, and the NCAA could make a $4-billion fumble – plus continued turmoil in online delivery, challenges posed by the Great Firewall of China, and the socially responsible way to advertise during a pandemic! 

Economic Gloom: Yesterday, the Conference Board of Canada projected a 5% decline in Canada’s GDP in Q1 2020, and a 25% decline in Q2. Hardest-hit provinces will be Alberta and Saskatchewan. Their analysis suggests 2.8 million Canadians will lose their jobs due to COVID19. Conference Board

Prospect decision-making: A new Eduventures survey of more than 7,100 US high school seniors found that 25% believe COVID19 may cause them to change their college choice, and almost half worry it will delay their enrolment. A survey in December found that only 22% of high school students were open to blended delivery, and less than 1% wanted online courses. Business Insider

Pedagogical Uncertainty this Fall: Phil Hill helpfully describes this year in online learning in 4 phases (see graphic at right): first, the emergency “rush to Zoom”; secondly “(re)adding the basics” like course navigation, academic integrity and equitable access; thirdly an “continued turmoil” and uncertainty into the fall term; and finally a “new normal” emerging in 2021. MindWires

Tenfold increase in Labster use: Labster, the online VR biochemistry laboratory simulation being used by hundreds of universities (including MIT and Waterloo) reports that 10,000 instructors signed up for its free offer in response to COVID19, increasing usage of the platform 10x in the past 2 weeks. IHE

A boon for Humanities MOOCs? MOOC provider Coursera reports a 370% spike in enrolments in the past 4 weeks, and a fivefold increase in new users. What’s striking is that courses in personal development, the arts, humanities, and social sciences grew 780% from the same period last year. (“The Science of Well Being” added a million learners in March.) IHE

Great Firewall of China: In the sudden shift to online delivery, students in rural areas face challenges with broadband access, but students who have returned home to China may be completely blocked from accessing resources on popular platforms, or content subject to political censorship. VPNs are a workaround, although they are not always reliable, and there are privacy concerns about recording class discussions. Times Higher Ed

Massive Impact of NCAA Football: It’s difficult to imagine for us Canadians, but 50 institutions in the “Power Five” NCAA conferences depend on football for $4.1 billion US – more than 60% of their total annual operating revenue! If the season is cancelled this year, those institutions would save only $520 million in player and coach expenses. USA Today

Savvy marketers fight COVID: Socially responsible advertisers are focusing on contributing to efforts to fight the pandemic, observes OCAD U prof Sandra Kedey. Some are merely playing with their logos to reinforce messages about social distancing, but others are putting their money where their mouths are: Rogers donated a million meals to Food Banks Canada, Ford is producing face shields at its Windsor plant, Canada Goose is manufacturing hospital scrubs. Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” campaign donated $1 million of personal care products to front-line healthcare workers. OCAD U

Campus Updates:

Centennial College announced a new COVID19 Relief Bursary program (joining 58% of schools).  Olds College announced it is postponing June commencement (joining 95%). See our Full Datasheet


Wednesday April 15, 2020

This morning I want to share some clear indicators of future budget pressures and responses, consumer behavioural changes, and my first instalment on the impacts of WFH. I’m still experimenting with the format and structure of the Insider – let me know if you have suggestions!  

UK Universities fear $12 Billion hit: In the wake of COVID-19, Universities UK is warning that some universities will face financial failure without “proactive support” from government. UUK wants a “transformation fund” to support federations, partnerships, and mergers in the next 2-3 years. They estimate the sector has already lost almost Ł800 million in ancillary fees and added costs, and worry that a 100% decline in international students next year would mean another Ł6.9 billion loss. Times Higher Ed

Manitoba is discussing “Rae Days”: The Manitoba government is reportedly meeting with union officials to discuss ways to reduce government spending for PSE and other public service sectors. Some options being discussed include a reduced work week (and reduced pay) to avoid layoffs (rather like Ontario’s 1993 austerity measures). Manitoba anticipates going “billions” into debt over COVID-19. CBC

International students hesitate: Survey data released yesterday by Dutch recruitment website StudyPortals show that 40% of potential international students are now changing their plans to study abroad, compared to just 31% three weeks ago. Half of them want to defer enrolment by 1 or 2 years. 83% believe their travel options will be restricted because of COVID-19. University World News

US Parents are anxious about COVID-19: 40% of parents in a recent US survey say that COVID-19 might delay their child going to PSE, 40% want their child to study closer to home as a result, and 65% are more worried about tuition costs. Marketers take note: 85% of parents say they need to know more about campus safety precautions for the fall. Brian Communications

Consumers shift to online retail, delivery: COVID-19 has vastly accelerated the pre-existing shift of Canadian consumer spending to online retail and restaurant delivery, making Amazon Marketplace, Shopify, Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes key partners for traditional bricks and mortar businesses. More people than ever are cooking at home, and restaurants are becoming “grocerants.” These shifts in consumer behaviour will likely have permanent repercussions. Conference Board

Sheridan maps “Road to Recovery”: Sheridan College announced a taskforce yesterday to assess strategies and promising practices for academic innovation, particularly regarding enrolment and pedagogy, to adapt its new strategic plan for the new normal. Digital transformation will require organizational and cultural transformation, observes president Janet Morrison, “and we don’t have the luxury to do it gradually.” The Road to Recovery

NCAA schools start to cut varsity teams: uCincinnati has responded to anticipated budget pressures by announcing the end of their NCAA Division I men’s soccer program, effective immediately. Student athletes will continue to receive their scholarships throughout their undergraduate programs. Bearcats Blog

Swim and Gym classes move online: Many Ivy League colleges require students to complete phys ed classes or a swim test in order to graduate. Some have waived the requirements in response to COVID-19, while MIT created online classes instead. Swarthmore has asked its seniors to complete the mandatory swim test within one year of graduation. Bloomberg

Sadly, the first announced COVID-19 death connected to a Canadian campus was reported at McGill, where emeritus Biology professor Robert Carroll died on April 8. (These announcements may be infrequent, or overwhelming – for now, I have added a column to the COVID-19 Google Sheet.)

#ICYMI, ESDC’s temporary changes to the Student Work Placement Program will subsidize wages for PSE institutions who hire students to work remotely. CICan

And speaking of working remotely, check out my latest blog on working from home (WFH).


Tuesday April 14, 2020

As St Lawrence College president Glenn Vollebregt put it wryly yesterday, welcome to “week five of our alternate reality…” 


COVID-19 Stats

Brandon University has introduced a pass/no credit grading option for students. (Sorry, I missed that last week. Now 56% of institutions)

Laurier and Conestoga have launched COVID Emergency Relief Funds to support students. (Now 57% of institutions)

Mohawk and UFV postponed June convocation, while Capilano and Centennial have decided to take their ceremonies virtual. (I think only 5 institutions have yet to make an announcement.)

(See our Google Sheet for COVID-19 data on 84 Canadian colleges and universities, now including OCAD University too.)



Volunteer at your own Risk: It’s telling that Ryerson posted a page of caveats for students volunteering or working during the COVID pandemic. (Other institutions may well have posted similar warnings.) Essentially: you’re volunteering independent of the university, no academic credit can be provided, and it’s at your own risk.

Contingencies for Fall: Lisa Young, former Vice-Provost at uCalgary, suggests that if students return to campus this fall (a big ‘if’), we’ll need to increase cleaning schedules, deliver large lecture classes online, convert double dorm rooms to singles, block off many classroom seats, replace dining hall buffets with single-serving prepackaged meals, and distribute face masks instead of condoms during orientation week. Institutions will also need to clearly communicate contingency plans to everyone on campus, in advance, in case another campus closure occurs.

Turnkey Online ESL: CultureWorks, a Canadian EAP pathway provider for international students, released a new video describing their “U First” online platform. Colleges and universities can also deploy a “white-label” version under their own brand, if they want a turnkey solution right away.



Advertiser Beware: It’s still debatable whether marketers can stop “holding our breath.” A recent survey by Corus found that 18% of Canadians want brands to stop all advertising during the pandemic, and 37% think any advertising still done should focus on how brands are helping during the crisis. CORUS reports a 25% bump in the net positive brand impression of QSR spots with special COVID messages.

Community Hubs: So institutions sharing positive stories about volunteerism and community engagement are on the right track, it would seem. I’ve mentioned previously the blog at LaurierSheridan’s curated social media posts, and Carleton’s Hub for Good,” focused on inspirational stories of kindness and compassion.

We’re also seeing initiatives to connect with employees, and try to overcome WFH isolation. VIU has a Facebook group for employees, “Keeping Connected VIU,” and UoGuelph a “Gryphon Family” portal for staff and student supports. Now there are two more:

Laurier has launched a Community Hub to share resources on education, staying fit at home, online music performances, virtual events, and other PD, as well as stories about how the community is pulling together.

uVic has launched a microsite they call “The Great Indoors” to provide wellness and upbeat content to the community at home. Some catchy posts include the “uVic Bounce Project,” “Digital Recess,” and “Buckets of Sunshine” – like Vikes Soccer players practicing individually at home.

Let me know if I’ve missed other good examples!



Monday April 13, 2020

COVID Updates

Over the Easter weekend, Canada reached 24,000 cases of COVID-19, half of them in Quebec.

BCIT announced the postponement of June convocation, to be replaced with a virtual celebration. (We’re now at 89% of the institutions I’m watching.)

Conestoga finally announced that its Spring semester will be offered by remote delivery. (Now 84%.)

New student emergency support funds were announced at CBU, Acadia, BCIT, Queen’s, and Ontario Tech, among others. (Now 54%.)

On Friday night, Concordia U (Montréal) discovered security issues with its online proctoring tool, COLE, and announced on Saturday that it will not be using COLE for exams this week as originally planned.

uAlberta has launched a “new News website to highlight the stories of our community’s efforts to handle COVID-19.”

Concordia has launched a new microsite, “CU at Home,” to help its entire community cope with “many facets of life in the time of COVID-19.” Regular contributions will include stories about research and community engagement, virtual workshops and fitness sessions, and webinars on leadership, mindfulness and wellness.

Vancouver Island University’s Office of Co-Curricular Engagement and Learning is organizing 8 weeks of “virtual social strengthening activities” for students, from daily “VIU Cares” Zoom chats to a special online edition of “VIU’s Got Talent.”


Preparing for Fall

PSE choices for fall already affected: A particularly useful new Simpson-Scarborough survey of 1,086 current and prospective college students in the US, conducted March 25-30, found that half reported their family finances had already been impacted by the pandemic. Moreover, 24% of decided high school seniors said COVID-19 might or would change their choice of college, and 20% said they would likely not attend PSE at all this fall as a result. Current college students report feeling saddened and disappointed by campus closures, and 63% say online instruction is worse or much worse than in-person classes. The report also observes that the trends will likely continue intensifying.

Starting the Year in January? Boston University is planning for several contingencies, including the possibility that the fall 2020 term will not start until January 2021, in their COVID-19 Recovery Plan.

National PD in Online Instruction? George Veletsianos, professor of Education and CRC in Innovative Learning and Technology at Royal Roads University, argues in his blog last week that a big priority for higher ed this summer should be providing training to faculty and instructors in delivering top-notch online courses. He suggests a national, 4-week online course, developed by leading experts, that in itself demonstrates what good online teaching looks like, with video lectures, but also break-out interactions between faculty teaching similar courses.


Budget Challenges to Come

So far the only mentions of budget challenges or cost containment in public announcements among the Canadian institutions I’ve been watching have been at UBC, Laurentian, and Sheridan. South of the border, though, we continue to see inklings of what might be coming:

Furloughs of support staff: In the US, institutions have begun announcing furloughs of support staff who cannot work from home, including Drew, New Haven, Marquette, and Bob Jones University. North Carolina’s Guilford College has reportedly furloughed more than half of its staff.

Class action lawsuits:  In the US, students have already launched class action lawsuits against institutions in Arizona, Ohio and Pennsylvania, claiming breach of contract for the abrupt shift to online delivery this spring. Some are seeking refunds of residence and ancillary fees, while others demand partial reimbursement of tuition.

I’ll keep my eyes open of course, but in case you’d prefer something lighter…



Easter Greetings: A few more presidential greetings from Western provinces came out after we “went to press” on Friday afternoon: Mike Mahon of uLethbridge, Philip Steenkamp of Royal Roads (who says he is growing the equivalent of a “playoff beard”), Kathy Kinloch of BCIT, Santa Ono of UBC, Deb Saucier of VIU, and Joanne MacLean of UFV. (UBC’s video ended with a virtual duet of “What a Wonderful World” by two music students.)

Check out my “COVIDeos” blog for some highlights of the more than 500 higher ed videos I’ve seen in the past month.


Thursday April 9, 2020

In last week’s poll, the majority of you voted for early morning delivery of this newsletter – so I’ll take the long weekend as an opportunity to switch gears. Eduvation Insider will be back in your inbox Monday morning.

Canada is approaching 20,000 COVID-19 cases, and lost more than 1 million jobs in March – and the pandemic is just getting started. (The Conference Board anticipates more than a million more jobs will be lost next month.) Ottawa announced an expanded Canada Summer Jobs program yesterday, which will now subsidize 100% of summer student wages (up to minimum wage).

A few more announcements in the past 24 hours: Capilano U will offer flexible grading options (we’re at about 53% now). SaskPoly and NAIT have confirmed their summer terms will be online only (82%). Emergency bursaries were launched at Capilano, Red River College, Fanshawe and Ryerson (48% now).

As most campuses wind down classes and prepare for exams next week, presidential messages are everywhere, generally thanking everyone for their effort, celebrating the renewal of springtime, wishing everyone a Happy Easter, and reminding us all to keep our social distance.

Laurentian president Robert Haché noted in today’s message that Ontario has deferred the signing of Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA3s) until the province has “reasonably moved past” the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the past two days, I have seen 14 presidential videos, including MSVU president Mary BluechardtuVic president Jamie CasselsTRU president Brett FairbairnRRU president Philip SteenkampCCNB president Pierre ZundelWilfrid Laurier U president Deborah MacLatchy, and Sheridan president Janet Morrison. (I appreciate the way St Lawrence College president Glenn Vollebregt makes his videos and the full text available as options.)

Memorial University’s new president Vianne Timmons introduced herself to the broader community and invited them to donate to the new student emergency relief fund.

Centennial College president Craig Stephenson  emphasized the importance of recognizing the stat holiday even while working from home, and urged staff to switch off their emails (before now!).

Mount Royal University president Tim Rahilly  announced the first draft of the new strategic plan, with the mission of “opening minds and changing lives.”

uSask president Peter Stoicheff delivered a 24-minute address to the General Academic Assembly, starting with a thoughtful reflection on the 1918 pandemic at UofS.

The greetings from Saint Mary’s U president Robert Summerby-Murray and uWindsor president Robert Gordon featured pretty good lighting, sound and background instrumental music too. Kudos!

Also, just a reminder that I have been maintaining a Youtube playlist of all the COVID-related videos on the 800 higher ed channels I follow. Currently there are more than 460 videos, in chronological order. (One of these days, I hope to get the time to review the videos and share some highlights…)

Finally, announcements about Convocation are still coming too. Brock announced that its convocation is postponed. Queen’s has been surveying students on their preferences for a virtual ceremony, which apparently caused some to “react with grief and anger.” Since many of you have been asking, I have compiled some examples of alternative convocationsfor the Class of 2020…


Wednesday April 8, 2020

Trinity Western U announced last night that the employee who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago has now fully recovered. (There have been so few new cases announced, that I’m starting to think it would be more accurate to count the web pages that don’t specifically state there have been no cases.)

Yesterday and today, many institutions across the country updated their FAQ information for international students, based on IRCC’s assurances that online courses will not harm their eligibility for the Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), and that in fact many of them can complete up to 50% of their program online from abroad and still qualify.

More and more institutions have been announcing specialized emergency financial aid programs for students. (Now up to 42% of the list.)

AUArts has announced that students will have the option to convert grades to Credit/No Credit this term.Saint Mary’s U (Halifax) has responded to student requests and added a Pass/No Credit option, upon request to the Associate Dean.

George Brown College has updated students about the Respondus proctoring software they will be using for final exams.

At institutions across the country, student recruitment for Fall 2020 continues as usual, although the in-person outreach and campus tours have been replaced with online alternatives. Post-Secondary BC, a collaborative of 30 college and university recruitment offices, has started adding COVID-19 details to each institutional profile.


Tuesday April 7, 2020

While many institutions had no updates today, these were notable:

Today, SAIT and Okanagan College announced they are postponing convocation. (We’re now at 87% of my sample of institutions.)

Windsor’s St Clair College announced it will be temporarily converting its Sportsplex into a 100-bed COVID-19 field hospital.

Algonquin College clarified today that while students may receive pro-rated refunds for some ancillary fees (residence, parking, fitness and meal plans), there will be no refund for any portion of tuition.

Some thought-provoking US research findings:

It’s already looking like students are considering taking a gap year this fall. A mid-March survey of 487 US high school seniors found that 17% were near the point of giving up on enrolling this fall, and 63% were expecting they could not attend their first-choice institution, largely because of finances. (At that point, just 6% of respondents knew someone affected by COVID-19, so these numbers will doubtless increase as the pandemic spreads.)

A survey of 142 AACU presidents at the end of March found that 83% expect to freeze hiring, 72% would consider layoffs, 57% furloughs, and 55% across-the-board cuts. (More than 80% of small institutions would be looking at layoffs.) For many, “even the best-case scenario does not envision a return to normal.”

In the US, universities anticipating budget challenges have already started to make temporary salary cutsfor senior administrators: 10% for the president and VPs at uOregon, 20% for the president and provost at Stanford, and 20% for the president at USC.

Here in Canada, two more college presidents started to address major budget issues today:

Sheridan president Janet Morrison emailed employees about “preserving Sheridan’s financial well-being.” Beyond a temporary freeze on new hiring and discretionary spending (such as PD), the executive is apparently modelling scenarios that project a 30-55% decrease in revenue for 2020-21. Managers will be scheduling mandatory vacation for employees currently underutilized.

Likewise, Conestoga president John Tibbits wrote staff today that “Conestoga will need to make significant adjustments in response to lower student enrolments, reduced revenues and increased cost pressures… Staffing levels, discretionary spending and non-essential activities will all need to be carefully examined and adjusted in light of our altered circumstances.”


Monday April 6, 2020

Online Teaching:

Mohawk College announced today that their campus closure has been extended another month, until May 4. CNA, Mohawk and MacEwan have announced that Intersession/Spring/Summer courses will be online/distance only (joining 80% of the list). To support online delivery, uVic announced today new university-wide licenses for Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate and BlueJeans (for videoconferencing), Kaltura (for video streaming), Microsoft Teams (for collaboration), and CrowdMark (for large-class marking).

Rez Living:

As of today, York has increased precautions in residence: students are being assigned specific toilets, sinks and showers in communal washrooms, and meals will be available by delivery only, by online pre-order the previous day.


Today, uAlberta announced that it will not include Winter 2020 grades when calculating admission GPAs for PSE transfer students, and will accept interim documents. Okanagan College has announced that students will be able to choose Aegrotat (grades based on work completed without the exam) or Deferred standing (work to be completed when possible).


UBC has circulated a memo to hiring managers and administrators, warning that “given the current circumstances, departments should carefully consider whether to begin job searches or post new positions,” urging them to reconsider any existing searches, and revoke offers that have not been accepted. They are encouraging conditional offers wherever possible.


Fleming College released a music video, #TogetheratHome, recorded by dozens of musicians and local citizens from home, in support of their COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund.


Sunday April 5, 2020

Late last week, the provinces of BC and New Brunswick announced emergency funding for students impacted by COVID-19, so institutions have been updating their websites to advise students. This weekend, I noticed new announcements at Royal Roads and Mount Allison.

Last fall, I visited Carleton University and learned more about their therapy dog program. (I have footage for an upcoming Ten with Ken episode, in fact.) Their therapy dogs have business cards, office hours, and social media accounts. During the campus closure, they’re taking their puppy-like enthusiasm to Instagram and Twitter to support students.

Market research is plagued with all sorts of biases, and in a rapidly-changing context like this, it can provide only a trajectory of consumer intention going forward. Still, I found some interesting stats this weekend:

A February survey of 100 Chinese agents concluded that 40-60% of prospective international students were already directly affected by the pandemic, and 66% of agents believed the number studying abroad would decline this year.

A March survey of almost 9,000 Chinese students studying in 20 countries found that the Coronavirus has 86% of them wanting to return to China (although the majority can’t get home).

particularly interesting study from Quacquarelli Symonds surveyed 11,000 prospective international students over February and March. By late March, the majority (52%) reported that they would defer study abroad because of the pandemic – but tellingly, 58% were willing to consider studying online instead. As the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus intensify, these percentages will likely grow.

We can expect at least half of international students to defer their plans by a year, but it looks like even more would be willing to get started with online study this fall.


Friday April 3, 2020

The world has passed 1 million Coronavirus cases. On Friday, Ontario released some sobering statistics about projected cases, deaths, and the duration of the pandemic, which they now expect to be 18-24 months. (This fits with the projections I shared a couple of weeks ago.) On Thursday, the BC government announced $3.5 M in emergency funds for PSE students, prompting a cascade of financial aid announcements at half a dozen BC institutions.

Also in the past 24 hours, Sheridan and Red River College announced that spring/summer courses will be delivered remotely. (Now 76% of institutions.)  Beyond that, Western and Laurentian have indicated that they are “planning for multiple scenarios” this Fall.

Royal Roads and College of the Rockies announced they are postponing or cancelling spring convocation. (Now 84% of institutions.)

Laurentian, McMaster, George Brownand Olds College announced Pass/Fail grading options for students. (Now 52%)  Humber (like Sheridan and some others) will replace failing grades with a late withdrawal note, but will notconvert passing grades to a credit.

It looks like the global picture is similar to what we’ve been tracking in Canada. A fairly recent AACRAO survey of 600 institutions in 13 countries found that 81% have moved courses online, and 73% have rescheduled or cancelled convocation (12% for a virtual option). Most have already implemented (35%) or are considering (21%) giving students the pass/fail option instead of grades, on one or more courses.

Adding to the omnipresent warnings about phishing scams, in the past few days some Canadian institutions started posting advisories about “Zoom-bombing” too (including SaskPolytech, uAlberta, and UFV).

Western announced that they are making rooms available for front-line hospital staff who want to protect their families at home.

On the communications front, Vancouver Island University has started a new Facebook group for employees, “Keeping Connected VIU.”  Carleton’s “Hub for Good” is collecting inspirational stories of kindness and compassion. UoGuelph launched a “Gryphon Family” portal for staff and student supports.

Budget Watch: The next major development I’m watching for is discussion of exigencies, budget cuts or financial measures to manage the very real financial pressures in the wake of COVID-19. (Its impact on summer international enrolments alone will be significant for many institutions.) So far, I’ve noticed two direct mentions:

Laurentian observed in two announcements this week the need for “immediate actions necessary to ensure the financial stewardship of the University during the pandemic,” and added yesterday that “our leadership team has also put forth significant cost reduction measures to adjust to our decreasing revenues in several areas including ancillary services.”

In a video message yesterday, Mount Royal president Tim Rahilly remarked that there are currently “more questions than answers” about the budget, and therefore he has postponed MRU’s budget town hall pending discussions with the province about the proposed new performance-based funding metrics.

Expect to hear more about budgets in the weeks ahead.


Thursday April 2, 2020

Queen’s and Bishop’s both reported today that members of their communities tested positive for COVID-19, bringing us to cases on 21 of 83 campuses (25%). (Most institutions have indicated that they will announce the first case, but not necessarily any further cases.) Of course that’s still nothing compared to south of the border, where there are reportedly 100 cases at Vanderbilt, and the presidents of Harvard and Martin Luther College have both tested positive. (But it’s only a matter of time.)

Today Brock, uManitoba, Emily Carr and UNB announced credit/no credit grading options for winter term courses. (Now 47% of institutions.)

Bishop’sMacEwan, SFU and Trent have announced they are cancelling or postponing convocation. (Now 82% of institutions.)

UNB, Okanagan College, Emily Carr and St Lawrence College have announced that their spring/summer semesters will be offered using alternative delivery. (Now 76% of institutions.)

I’m sure contingency planning and emergency budget sessions are happening at every institution, but Laurentian is one of the first to hint that an announcement is coming. Today, president Robert Haché ominously said in his message, “shortly, we will be providing the community with details on the immediate actions necessary to ensure the financial stewardship of the University during the pandemic.” (Insert dramatic music)

On the upside, though:

Saint Mary’s U (Halifax) has a new “Virtual University” landing page with audience-based navigation to further information. Check it out, if you’re wondering how to transition away from a relentless emphasis on COVID-19 on your website.

uWaterloo announced today a new Teaching & Learning support team for faculty, as a single point of contact for 4 units (essentially the CTL, ConEd, IT and Library). I think we’re going to see many institutions expanding their teams to support faculty preparing for online delivery this summer and fall.

Graduations “Up in the Air”:  Shout-out to Briercrest College & Seminary, in Caronport SK, for the international exposure they got when a WestJet crew held a mid-air graduation convocation for 4 of their students, down the aisle of the aircraft, humming “Pomp and Circumstance” to boot. (I’ve added Briercrest to my spreadsheet, which seemed only fair.)


Wednesday April 1, 2020

We made it through March, which came in like a lion and went out… even worse.

Canada has now surpassed 9,600 COVID-19 cases, and 100 deaths. Today, Concordia (Montreal) reported that “some members” of their community tested positive yesterday, bringing the total on Canadian campuses to at least 29 confirmed or presumptive cases.

Thanks to Jamie Leong-Huxley, VP Advancement at Alberta University of the Arts, for providing data on AUArts to add to the spreadsheet. We’re now at 83 institutions.

The march of the inevitable continued today:

Bishop’s U, MSVU, Humber and UoGuelphannounced that Spring/Summer terms will be online only. (Joining at least 69% of institutions.)

VIU, Lakehead and Bishop’s also announced a pass/fail grading option for students. Sask Polytech will allow instructors to decide when AEG (Aegrotat) is appropriate instead of a grade. (Now 43% of institutions have offered a pass/fail option, and even more have offered late withdrawals after final grades.)

Humber and Assiniboine announced they will be postponing June convocation, as did AUArts (bringing us to 77% of institutions).

Hiring Freezes: In the US, colleges ranging from Ivy-league Brown to state flagships and smaller regional institutions have announced hiring freezes. And considering how bleak the financial picture looks for Canadian institutions this fall, everybody should probably be considering it immediately. Karen Kelsey is maintaining a crowdsourced list of more than 200 US institutions that have frozen hiring.

On the somewhat brighter side:

Centennial College announced that it has taken delivery of 5,000 chromebooks to loan out to students.

NSERC has announced $15 million for new Alliance COVID-19 grants to fund collaborations between researchers and external partners.

eCampus Ontario has announced it will provide an AI exam proctoring tool for Ontario PSEs.

Acadeum, a platform for PSEs to share open seats in online classes, announced a new Course Recovery Consortium, where 19 universities are offering a million discounted seats to students impacted by COVID-19.

Dalhousie has a Tumblr feed, One Dal, focused on how the university is supporting the community during COVID-19. And their latest presidential message video has much higher production values than many of the ad hoc vids we’ve seen lately.

I’m continuing to see institutions telling positive news stories about student volunteers, donated medical equipment and supplies, etc. I’m trying to track offers to contribute physical facilities, from sports stadiums to residence rooms, to the COVID emergency – let me know if you know of any I’ve missed. (So far the spreadsheet includes uAlberta, Trent, and uOttawa.)

Stay tuned… and stay safe!


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