College and high school

The Freakonomics broadcast on Sunday last (5/17) interviewed some of the people tasked with the responsibilities of making decisions about school opening procedures. The show also featured some very favorable prognostications as to the future of education in general in both the pandemic and post-pandemic environments. Good news! People still want to “go to” school as much as ever.

I recommend and predict a hybrid triangle approach.

Primary instruction will be offered simultaneously in three modalities: Face-to-face, synchronous online (watching the live presentation and receiving the assignments live), and asynchronous (students have the luxury of a much more flexible schedule).

The students and their parents will chose between the three modalities of their own free will for every course.

The classroom components will have professors and teachers meeting directly with any and all students who sign up early and chose that option. There will be an enrollment cap to keep the numbers down.  Everyone will wear N-95 masks and gloves. There will be a hand washing station in every classroom, and light weight plexi-glass screens will be available. Group work will employ social distancing guidelines.  

The Synchronous online component will consist of a group of voluntary synchronous online students, on a rigorous schedule. They will attend the lectures/presentations on time.  Group work will be skyped online in synchronous group modules, attendance mandatory.  Group work should be right after class  on a rotating schedule so the professor/teacher could monitor every group. Teachers and students could easily video conference.

Face-to-face and synchronous online classes could have the same fee and credit structure. Or the fees and the credits could be set at a very slight premium for face-to-face. The slightly higher fees combined with the prospect of a commute and an enrollment cap will work to keep the classroom numbers low. 

The asynchronous online students will enjoy complete flexibility, and they will be opting for a slightly less rigorous environment. The instructor will post the videos of his or her presentations. The students will watch at their leisure. The professor will also supply additional online discussion questions and be responsible for the online content by monitoring and grading discussion boards.

The fee for taking a class in asynchronous mode will be less, and the credits potentially earned will also be less. Fees might be as low as half. The credits should be 50 or 75 percent.

Quizzes could be taken online. However, major testing is the only real problem, and the only real solution to that problem is a viable network of onsite and remote testing centers with high standards of testing security. Test security is absolutely essential as well as prompt and accurate score reporting. Many such testing sites already exist, but we must incentivize their further creation by extending an offer of a share in tuitions.

A kind lady named Lisa once told me a story about a testing site that had neglected to provide a lockable room or closet for test storage upon arrival. Rather than forfeit the test administration, they buried the tests and hired an armed guard to stand on top of them every night.

The moral of that story is this: We may be facing difficult hardships, but we can over-come them.