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What about the classes you can’t attend online?


Published August 13, 2020

Written By Nathan Furr

Creative Director at Periodic. Hobbyist woodworker and musician with a love for finding, restoring, and reusing old things.

How Major Universities Must Adapt To Providing Education On Things That Can’t Be Taught Virtually.

Universities across the country are faced with the challenge of providing quality education while transforming teaching methodologies in ways that were nearly theoretical up until this year when they must now be put to the test because of Covid-19.

A cancer research student using university lab equipment.Most campuses are planning to roll out a hybrid model of in-person and online learning as students face the decision about their academic school year. One researcher, Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute says that “[He] wouldn’t be surprised to see enrollment in residential college programs drop by roughly 10% or so in the fall, and revenue to fall around 20% if students won’t be able to attend in-person in the fall.” Horn continues, “On the flip side, I think we will see enrollments in online programs rise quite a bit, driven by adult learners — many of whom have been recently laid off — looking to wait out the recession and use their time productively by skilling up.” [1]

With virtual learning there is both an opportunity and a challenge. On the one hand, more students may have the ability to fit in schooling at any stage of life without disrupting critical choices like whether to move or uproot their lives for the sake of furthering their education. On the other hand, certain educational programs require the use of expensive equipment or use of lab space that can only be managed in person.

Colleges like Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts offer class experience with equipment that “is worth millions of dollars” says Tony Caldanaro, Director of Computing and Technical Services at Smith. There would be no way to replicate the in-class experience with this equipment virtually. Caldanaro said that before using and implementing scheduling and tracking software “adding equipment or another user [of equipment] was a very convoluted process.”

Luckily, Smith College started working with prior to the pandemic. Understanding the vast and varying needs of a university program for scheduling and managing resources the Periodic platform had what the school needed to allow students to sign up online for lab time and use of equipment and tracking use of equipment through student ID numbers. Periodic works with colleges and universities like Smith College and Indiana University for scheduling of other things like test centers.

With reduced and limited capacity of rooms, with more meetings being scheduled for things like office hours being held virtually, the challenge is doing this in a safe way that doesn’t also overwhelm educators.

Where students have less ability to grab a professor right after class to ask a question, now students need to make better use of available office hours. Having a tool in the hands of professors, counselors and administrators that allows them to manage the added meeting time will be a boon for colleges this school year as they navigate teaching in a pandemic.

Said Caldanaro, “I think with this unprecedented fall semester, our faculty can be using this to power reservations with students. Advising is still going to happen. We can use this to book not just meetings but to book more spaces. Using it in CATS was instrumental in June. I didn’t have to go back and forth with faculty members. Some of the equipment needs cleaned and maintenance after so much usage and all of that is tracked in Periodic.”

Colleges like Smith College find the program easy to administer and to the control in the hands of the administrators. For a full case study you can read more about the Smith College use case here.

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Like many innovations discovered in the time of crisis some believe that even after the pandemic is subdued some of the changes may have lasting effects. CEO of Barnes and Noble Education, Mike Huseby, said that his organization has seen “the percentage of courseware that is offered digitally has increased from around 20% at the beginning of this past semester to about 30% this summer.” [2] Software platforms like those offered by Barnes and Noble Education and Periodic have long anticipated the adoption of new technologies like theirs in the education sector but now they both report seeing an acceleration in use cases.

Periodic is a software company headquartered in Bloomington, IN home of the Indiana Hoosiers. Specializing in advanced booking and resource management. Periodic’s aim is to assist universities as they navigate trying to provide quality education in a safe and flexible way.

Periodic is here to help universities make the shift to hybrid in-person and virtual teaching models avoiding logistical nightmares. Book office hours, small group sessions, lab hours, rooms, advising appointments, campus tours, move-in schedules and rec centers all in one powerful platform across multiple colleges and departments. Visit to bring your students back to activity safely.

[1,2] 7 Ways The Coronavirus Pandemic Could Change College This Fall And Forever, Jun 19, 2020 Abigail Hess.