The start of a new school year has always been an exciting time, stirring up a multitude of energies and emotions. It brings a new sense of motivation, an anxiousness to start classes and meet new professors, and an eagerness to reconnect with friends from the previous year or make new ones.
While the beginning of the school year typically brings a fresh start, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into the mix for millions of hopeful college students. Institutions were forced to limit or completely eradicate in-person classes and student-life activities, making it much harder for students to connect meaningfully. And while we had hoped that proper systems and innovative technologies would offer some semblance of a normal college experience, the new school year is off to a rocky start.
In the U.K. (where universities rely on examination grading to admit new students) chaos erupted as effects of the novel coronavirus caused the U.K. government to halt exams and push forth an unpopular algorithm-based testing solution. Amid fierce pushback, many hopeful pupils have taken to protesting after being denied entry into their top-choice schools as a result of low test scores.
Across the pond, spikes in coronavirus cases throughout the United States have transformed the typical college experience to be nearly unrecognizable. Many students stayed home after their institutions shifted to fully remote learning, while others who’ve moved back on campus (likely expecting a slight glimmer of college life) have been strictly siloed to their dormitories with little room for making friends.
With schools in both the U.S. and the U.K. having put in place basic infrastructures for learning, it’s time to shift our focus on an equally important piece of the college experience: socialization.
Collaboration and networking are essential throughout university, and relationships built during this time can have lasting effects, offering a wide range of opportunities for mentorship, referrals and jobs. Without attending university, some of the most famous relationships would have never been developed; like Coldplay bandmates, Chris Martin and Johnny Buckland, or British Royals, Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. With little focus on translating in-person bonds to digital ones, this leaves a gaping hole in real, meaningful, peer-to-peer connection.
You could argue that widely adopted platforms like Hangouts and Zoom help facilitate the transactional component to virtual communication, but if students are craving a place to find (and build) authentic relationships, they’ll also need more interactive platforms, like video games and Teooh.
These types of platforms offer immersive and interactive experiences that foster connections that closely mirror the natural, in-person interaction students had expected to have. In Teooh, classmates can be dispersed to their own private tables for seamless brainstorming and interaction, connect one-on-one for mentorship or tutoring, or present work to the entire class and have a real active and engaged audience—without the awkward silence or blank stares.
As universities implement an entirely new, distanced way of learning it’s not enough to solely focus on classroom education. Institutions also need to consider strategies and technologies for supporting the indispensable social interaction students look for, and need, in the complete university experience.