How to Convince Students It’s Safe to Return to Class
Higher education institutions are transitioning back to in-person learning, but students may still be worried about the pandemic. Here’s how to make them feel safer and more comfortable during the transition.
Lots of college campuses have reopened and expect students to return to in-person classes. However, some schools are seeing resistance from students who feel like online courses were working just fine and kept them safe from the spread of the virus.
With different laws and mandates around the nation and changing expectations from students, it’s hard to know how to address everyone’s concerns when you’re going back to the classroom. You want students to feel comfortable returning to campus, so you don’t see dips in enrollment or lots of frustration.
Communicating campus safety can be tough during the pandemic. One way to make it easier is for universities to use digital communication strategies to convince students that it’s time to come back to campus. Here are six tips to use these tools to your advantage.
How to convince students it’s safe to return
Even with all the pandemic uncertainties, there are steps you can take to show students that it’s safe to return and help them feel as comfortable and confident as possible on your campus. It starts with using the right digital tools to communicate campus safety practices and stay in touch.
Here are some of the best things you can do as you’re facing a return to in-person class:
1. Send out plenty of resources
In today’s digital world, there are many ways to stay in communication with students online. Send out email newsletters and post on social media. Let them know where they can turn with questions. Give them resources from the CDC and other entities about the state of the virus and what’s considered safe versus unsafe behavior.
The CDC has specific guidance for higher ed institutions that the agency updates based on the state of the pandemic. These include recommendations to promote vaccination, masks, testing, and more. States have different requirements, so communicate any important mandates or laws.
Share information with students about safety specifically related to classroom learning. For example, colleges that returned to in-person classes in the fall of 2020 didn’t find evidence that classroom learning contributed to the spread of COVID. Instead, they found that off-campus activities led to greater transmission.
This information will help your students understand what’s happening with the pandemic and show them that you’re staying abreast of what’s going on from moment to moment. Taking these actions can help students feel more comfortable and build trust.
2. Clearly communicate policies
You still need to set your own school policies, even while sending out government updates. Tell students your guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing, vaccination and booster status, and COVID-19 testing. They will have lots of questions about the steps you’re taking as an institution to address these concerns, so make sure you are clear and direct about what is expected of students and teachers.
You may want to consider updating or creating policy documents to send around to students so they have all the information in one place that can be accessed online from any device.
3. Support educators
It’s important that you also get all your educators on the same page when you’re facing a return to the classroom. They will be the ones fielding a lot of questions from students, so make sure they know exactly where your college stands on policies and practices so everyone can communicate the same things. You never want students to receive conflicting information during such a stressful time.
Hold training or send around documents to educators so they’re prepared to support their students and represent the university’s requirements appropriately.
4. Ask for feedback
Gathering feedback from students and opening up for questions can help them feel like their concerns are being heard and considered. There are lots of digital tools you can use to collect their thoughts and opinions. Send around a digital poll or survey that will tell you how students are feeling.
If you find that there’s very little support for a return to in-person classes, you will need to provide even more resources and support as they make the transition. Ask them what would help make the change easier and what they’re most worried about.
This information will help you create a better, more effective plan for the return to school.
5. Update your website
Today’s students turn to Google searches and online resources as the first place to get answers to their questions. It’s more important than ever to keep your site updated with the latest news and resources so they can get quick answers.
Post government updates about COVID on your homepage and consider creating a separate page just for pandemic news. Students will want to know if they need to get vaccinated and by when, for example, and if the school calendar will be different.
Focus on how students are experiencing your website and your digital presence in general. Think of ways you can make that experience better.
6. Explain your requirements
Another way to help students feel safe and comfortable is to explain the why behind your guidelines. Instead of taking a cold, strict approach to digital communications, try to be empathetic and compassionate. Convey that you understand students’ concerns and explain how you’re doing everything you can to create a safe environment for them.
Simply explaining why you’re implementing a vaccine or mask mandate can do wonders and help give students answers without having to complain or ask.
Need help with digital communications?
You need a digital strategy that will support your students and educators through the pandemic. Working with KWALL means you can create more impactful web experiences to manage communications and your overall web presence.
KWALL is a full-service digital agency, and we’ve worked with hundreds of websites for higher ed institutions. We’ve been doing it for over a decade.