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COVID-19 Resource Center for Higher Education

This resource center is updated on a weekly basis with the most current information.

Last updated March 13, 2020

Hanover Research is closely monitoring developments surrounding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and how it has and may continue to impact the higher education community. This resource center provides you with key facts, resources, and potential responses to this rapidly evolving situation.

We have set up a dedicated COVID-19 support email (covid19-support@hanoverresearch.com) where you may ask any questions related to COVID-19.

How We Can Help

In addition to the information included in this resource center, Hanover is committed to providing you with up-to-date custom research to help you address COVID-19 related challenges as the situation continues to develop.

Research Library Reports

Our syndicated Research Library contains numerous reports that can help inform your institution’s transition to online learning in response to COVID-19 – below are some of most relevant reports:

Custom Research Solutions

Our research team can craft a customized research project based on your institution’s individual needs:

Peer Policy Benchmarking

Evaluates opportunities for clarification or expansion relative to COVID-19 related policies at peer and competitor institutions. Sample policy areas include remote work, online education, study abroad and international students, support for at-risk students and discrimination responses, and long-term planning.

Institutional Climate Pulse Survey

Gather real-time feedback on the experiences of students and faculty as they navigate institutional responses to COVID-19.

Social Media Monitoring

Audit social media communication and responses to the COVID-19 situation to reduce the spread of misinformation and optimize transparency.

Returning Student Survey

Capture data on how current students are evaluating their re-enrollment decisions, and proactively highlight any obstacles that may prevent students from returning for the next academic term – including attitudinal shifts, changes in degree interests, struggles with online course completion, and/or financial circumstances.

How Shifting to Online Learning Affects Pedagogy in Higher Education

Understand the emerging challenges and questions that are currently facing higher education institutions transitioning into online learning environments.

The Latest Information About COVID-19

Key facts:

According to Johns Hopkins:

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
  • COVID-19 first appeared in China in December 2019.
  • Symptoms include cough, fever, and shortness of breath; the virus can be spread from person-to-person. Though rare, some cases have resulted in death.
  • COVID-19 is diagnosed via a laboratory test. There is no coronavirus vaccine yet.
  • Prevention includes frequent and thorough handwashing, coughing into a tissue or the bend of your elbow, and staying home if you are ill.
  • Global map of locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases
  • U.S. map of states reporting cases of COVID-19 to the CDC

Guidance for Higher Education Institutions

Adapted from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Checklist for Administrators”.

Stay informed

Use reputable resources to stay abreast of recent developments in the COVID-19 situation. To prevent the spread of misinformation, point faculty, staff, students, and community members to reliable sources such as the following:

Review and Update Emergency Operations Plans

Working with local health professionals and other relevant partners, review and update emergency contingency and operations plans, particularly those that address infectious disease outbreaks.

According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American College Health Association (ACHA), and other authoritative sources, institutions should identify a core planning team to develop emergency operations plans. In response to COVID-19, many institutions have developed working groups of community stakeholders and local public health authorities to develop tailored policies and procedures:

  • In early March, MIT Emergency Management coordinated community members into an overarching and individual working groups in the following areas to address the Coronavirus situation: Academic continuity, research continuity, business continuity, medical response, student/residential response, and communications response.
  • University of Connecticut expanded its existing emergency management team to include key subject matter experts, such as university medical staff, as well as two sub-working groups to address academic affairs and student affairs. The former working group will focus on areas including travel policies and provisions for academic continuity such as through distance education, while the latter is reviewing preparedness measures for a potential outbreak on campus. These groups meet weekly and as needed.
  • University of California, Santa Barbara developed a COVID-19 Response Working Group that includes the University’s vice chancellors, Academic Senate leaders, faculty subject matter experts (e.g., in microbiology and host interactions), and other relevant stakeholders. The group meets daily and regularly communicates with students and staff to ensure full transparency.

Per FEMA, emergency contingency plans should include the following:

Basic Plan

  • This brief document should provide an overview of the institution’s “approach to operations before, during, and after an emergency. This section addresses the overarching activities the institution undertakes regardless of the function, threat, or hazard. The content in this section provides a solid foundation for the institution’s operations.”

Introductory Material

  • Typical materials include: a cover page, signature page, record of changes, record of distribution, and table of contents
  • A sub-section should review the overall purpose of the plan, with sample threats and hazards that necessitate the plan.

Concept of Operations

  • Section I: Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities (i.e., indidivudal roles and resposibilities)
  • Section II: Direction, Control, and Coordination (i.e., leadership designation and instructions on how stakeholders should engage with one another)
  • Section III: Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
  • Section IV: Training and Exercises (i.e., in support of the plan)
  • Section V: Administration, Finance and Logistics (i.e., support requirements for all types of emergencies)
  • Section VI: Plan Development and Maintenance (i.e., overall approach to planning and maintainence)
  • Section VII: Authorities and References (i.e., local ordinances, regulations, etc)

Functional Annexes Content

  • “Functional annexes focus on critical operational functions and the courses of action developed to carry them out… As the planning team assesses the institution’s needs, it may need to prepare additional or different annexes. Examples include: evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place, accounting for all persons, communications, and continuity of operations.
  • In particular, institutions should develop threat- and hazard-specific annexes, such as an annex dedicated to the COVID-19 situation and other infectious diseases.

COVID-19 Field Guide

Get the resources you need to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 and craft your higher education response strategy with our complete field guide.

Ensure Wide Dissemination of the Updated Emergency Operations Plans​

This may include posters, bulletins, news articles, online media, and other modes for garnering community members’ attention.

Develop a dedicated COVID-19 resource webpage for faculty, staff, students, and community members. Exemplars include:

Sample Institutional Webpages
Notable Features
New York University
  • Live update banner
  • Status of operations
  • Messages to the community
  • General FAQs and Support
  • NYU Location Statuses (e.g., for international campuses)
University of Virginia
  • Latest updates
  • University operations status
  • Travel guidance
  • Community messages
  • Health precautions
  • FAQs and Resources
University of Maryland
  • Community Guidance
  • Resources
  • Diversity and Civility
  • Latest News & Advisories
  • Videos
  • WHO MythBusters
University of California San Francisco
  • FAQs
  • Policies and guidance
  • Important Resources
  • Latest Updates
  • Messages to the Community
  • Basic Facts
University of Louisville
  • Recent updates
  • Travel guidelines
  • Work Continuity
  • Stay healthy
  • Prevention programs for undergraduates

See “Higher education institution responses to COVID-19 to-date” below for additional institutional responses and dissemination methods.

Promote Preventative Health Behaviors

Specifically, the CDC suggests the following (verbatim):

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, cough and sneeze into the inside of your elbow, not your hands.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces following CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfection
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Ensure your health clinics post specific guidelines, such as the CDC’s COVID-19 healthcare guidance.
  • Use a variety of methods and media to promote prevention in common areas, such as:

Plan for and Communicate Large Increases in Absenteeism

Make accommodations for students who fall ill, such as submitting assignments electronically or extended due dates, and alert local health officials about significant increases in student, staff, and faculty respiratory illness. Individuals who are ill should be sent to/remain in their place of residence and avoid contact with others.

Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis: A Survey of College and University Presidents

We conducted a survey of 172 campus leaders with Inside Higher Ed to understand how institutions nationwide are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

If There Is an Outbreak of COVID-19 in Your Community

Reduce or eliminate in-person engagements, including study and travel abroad.

Work directly with local health authorities to determine next steps, such as suspending or postponing in-person classes and events as well as domestic and international study and travel abroad.

In reducing student and faculty travel commitments, higher ed providers should support individuals whose account for the possibility that disruptions may resonate for months to come.

  • Keep abreast of COVID-19 developments through the summer, to consider whether to advise international students to return early for the fall semester.
    • MassBay Community College has advised international students going home for the summer to plan to return three weeks before the fall semester, to account for potential travel restrictions.
  • Consider requiring any students or staff who still end up traveling to report their travel history or plans.

Institutions asking students to leave campus will need to consider how to support students whose personal circumstances may require them to remain away from home for the rest of the semester or even through the summer.

  • International or other students may not be able to return home. Survey students early to assess how many will stay on campus during the summer, to ensure the adequate provision of services like dining halls or transportation.
    • An official from an elite university in the United Kingdom has anonymously stated that it plans to provide free accommodation for international students who do not have alternative arrangements.
  • Ensure that students have continued access to financial support, including work-study opportunities.
    • Though Amherst College has asked students to move off-campus, it is planning to pro-rate room and board fees and pay students who normally work on campus.

Keep an eye on:

  • Will the Department of Homeland Security relax their rules for graduating international seniors, who must typically leave the United States within 60 days of graduation if they do not continue their studies or plan to work here?

Moving classes and services online.

Many institutions have opted to move classes and services online either preemptively or in direct response to an outbreak in the local community.

While moving classes online may be the best for individuals’ personal health, this decision presents multiple pedagogical challenges, including:

In many cases, faculty members will need to restructure their classes to accommodate a distance format. Institutions must consider how to support faculty who may not have experience with hosting online classes,

  • Provide professional development days to allow faculty members to have time to adapt their classes. Universities can also develop a standard guide for faculty with best practices for taking their courses online.
    • Ohio State University has a “Keep Teaching” website, which provides resources to faculty in the event that they need to “take [their] class materials online with minimal notice.”
  • Pepperdine University has similarly published a set of strategies, tools and resources, and training guides to “share solutions for continuing coursework if meeting with students face-to-face is not possible.”
    • Consider whether to continue holding in-person sessions for laboratory-based, studio arts, theater, or similar classes with a significant in-person component.
    • Ohio State University said that it believes “some instruction will take place in person” to accommodate such classes, even though it is moving to online instruction through March 30th at minimum.

Universities will also need to consider how to support students who do not have the resources to effectively participate in distance education. Additionally, when shifting to online education,  universities must also address how to support low-income, part-time, or other students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out from classes.

  • Consider leaving some academic resources operational and loaning materials to students in need.
    • Shoreline Community College will continue to leave the library and online tutoring resources open and will repurpose 70 laptops that students can borrow.
  • Provide faculty members with guidelines for effectively maintaining relationships with students in online classes. Previous studies have shown that strategies for fostering professor-student relationships – such as video updates, personal emails, and personalized comments on assignments – can help improve retention and academic performance in online classes.

Additional resources:

Academic technology specialists at Stanford have put together a guide for “putting together a student-centric learning experience in a remote or online learning environment.”

Actively counter discrimination and promote resilience.

Administrators should communicate about COVID-19 cases while maintaining individual confidentiality. Faculty and staff should also encourage the use of mental health services and share trusted information to counter potential discrimination and stigma. Create a broad-based taskforce of campus stakeholders and local health professionals when deciding how to proceed with campus operations.

Example: When the University of Washington made the decision to go online, it convened an Advisory Committee of Communicable Diseases, comprised of “medical professionals, student-support staff members, international-education experts, and others.”

While coping with the virus, universities must make sure that they work to reduce potential stereotyping and discrimination.

  • Ensure that all communications to the campus at large convey inclusivity.
  • Syracuse University’s Chancellor published a message supporting Asian students as an “integral part of our Orange community” and encouraging students to respect each other.

Universities must also make sure to provide adequate support for students who have experienced discrimination or otherwise feel displaced or worried about COVID-19.

  • Ensure that counseling and other mental health services remain adequately equipped and staffed to handle student needs.
  • The Institute of International Education indicated that some universities are offering special counseling services or hotlines for students who have experienced coronavirus-related discrimination.
  • Brandeis University indicates that its student counseling and support services (including chaplaincies and career center) will remain open during the period of online education.

If your institution decides to move to online classes, ensure that student support and counseling services are able to move online as well.

Reassure and project stability to admitted students who are considering which university to attend in the fall.

Higher Education Institution Responses to COVID-19

Use the following live databases of higher education institution responses to COVID-19 to monitor trends and assess best practices. Note that as the situation is rapidly evolving, some links may break.

Hanover Research