ALEx stories

What Schools are Planning for the Fall

Aliyah Mallak Jul. 9, 2020

The question most students were asking in March hasn’t changed much in nearly four months, “When will we return to school and what will it be like?”

Colleges and universities across the country have been scrambling to come up with a plan for the fall semester as the CDC, federal, and state guidelines continue to change for how educational institutions are supposed to reopen. Understandably, most schools have held off making final announcements due to all the adjustments. But, as the start of the school year gets closer and closer, students and parents are eager to know how it’s shaping up.

While most plans are not 100% final, a majority of schools have announced they are expecting students back on campus. A smaller number are doing a hybrid in-person, online semester and an even smaller number are going strictly online. But just because schools have announced their intended primary modes of learning, doesn’t mean everything is ironed out.

Academic Year

Most schools will start the semester as regularly scheduled, but it’s the end of the semester that will be different for in-person classes. Almost all universities are ending campus-based instruction at the start of Thanksgiving break to reduce travel for students and teachers.

From Thanksgiving break on, all classes and exams will take place online, including finals. Some schools like Penn State University are even holding classes on Labor Day, a holiday students traditionally have off, to reduce travel and potential coronavirus exposure. Other schools are reducing the number of Thanksgiving and fall break days.

Semesters will end when originally planned, at the beginning or middle of December.

Housing & Dining

While the bulk of upper-classmen tend to live in off-campus housing, under-classmen usually live on-campus and in some cases are required to. And except in special circumstances, most dorm rooms house two to four students at a time with communal bathrooms for an entire floor.

Now, dorms will have one person per dorm room and in most cases first-year students have priority. Some dining halls will have a mobile ordering system with “grab N go” pick-up to reduce the number of students in the dining halls, while others will limit the number of people in the dining hall at one time but continue with buffet style.

In-Person Classes

Larger universities can have lecture halls of around 500 people sitting elbow to elbow. Elevators have people packed in like sardines. Common areas, libraries, and tech centers have hundreds if not thousands of people moving through them on a daily basis. Logistical planning for colleges that are sending everyone back to campus is immense.

For the most part:

  • Common areas will be removed
  • Masks will be required
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be provided
  • Classrooms will be socially distanced

Some schools are contemplating having half the students in-person and the other half online, then switching the next day of the class.

Online Only & Hybrid Classes

Some schools, like those in California, decided much earlier than others that they will be entirely online this fall. They chose to play it safe and continue the way they have since schools shut down in March.

Other schools like Temple University are doing a hybrid semester of in-person and online classes. The classes to be held in-person are the ones that must be like science labs, pottery classes, and medical clinicals. The rest are to be held online.

International Students

Within the past few days, it's been announced that ICE is planning to strip international students’ visas if all of their classes are held online. Not only have many of them not been able to return to their home countries during the pandemic, but now many may not be able to finish school. Harvard and MIT are in the process of suing the Trump administration for the decision to strip international students of their visas, declaring it unlawful.

Most schools are standing by their international students, saying they will do whatever it takes to keep them in the States to help finish their degrees.


Will any of these plans work as the universities and colleges intend? We will have to wait and see.

Most students already have rising concerns that schools either haven’t addressed yet or provided inadequate answers for. Questions and concerns range from tuition prices for online-only classes to campus life for on-campus students.

Some questions and concerns we’ve heard and seen on social media, news articles, and talking with students over the past few weeks:

  • Why am I paying full tuition for all online classes?
  • Why are all the fees the same when I don’t have access to the gyms, counseling services, tech centers, etc.?
  • What will commuters do if the common areas are removed from buildings?
  • Where will I go if I have an online class directly after an in-person one if the common areas are gone (or vice versa)?
  • I can’t get to campus in less than ten minutes from my apartment for an in-person class directly after an online one.
  • What am I supposed to do about housing if everything gets shut down again?
  • What am I supposed to do when I’m not in class but live on campus?
  • How are buffet-style dining halls going to work?
  • Even with social distancing how, will huge lecture halls work?
  • Can I take a gap year?
  • Will taking a gap year affect financial aid or my graduation date?
  • Are schools prepared to transition to online again if the states shut down?
  • How am I supposed to get work-study if most things aren’t open?
  • How will classes be taught with some students in-person and some online?
  • Will online classes be asynchronous or synchronous?
  • Will schools offer credit/no-credit again?

If you’re a student, we feel for you. If you’re a parent of a student, we feel for you. If you’re an administrator, faculty, or staff of a university or college, we feel for you. There is nothing about this that is easy or straightforward. And as an education platform, we want to be here to help all of you as much as we can.

Whether classes are online, in-person, or a combination of the two, having easy access to an online curriculum that is easy to deploy and manage is crucial during uncertain times. It’s no secret that it was overwhelming for both teachers and students to switch to entirely online earlier this year. From issues with tech and learning management systems to quickly transitioning content that was meant to be taught in-person online, there were frustrations and gaps identified in the process and results.

That’s where having an online educational platform with a base of content that is customizable and easy-to-use comes in. The Ad Learning Exchange provides core content that teachers and students can use to supplement their curriculum and learning. Our ALEx Scholars program is currently free to all HBCU students and alumni and serves as an example of how to supplement a curriculum for marketing students.

Check out our ALEx Scholars curriculum here.