Coronavirus and academia: what can we do to help now?

Coronavirus_C-Tan-nCov_Wuhan_strain_01-20200123104509I’ve been tracking the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on higher education for weeks.  That’s a mix of blog posts and tweets.

My question today is: what else can I do to help?

Is there anything I can add based on my futures, education, and technology expertise?

I’ve been having offline conversations with many people over the past months.  Here are some of the ideas folks have offered.  Each has its own benefits, affordances, and costs:

  1. Holding video conversations about COVID-19 and education, modeled on the Future Trends Forum.  Host one or several experts (CDC, WHO, campus planners, HHS, researchers) and connect them with an audience in actual conversation.  Grab sponsors.
  2. Work with a nonprofit, government agency, professional organization, or business to host a video conversation aimed at their particular slice of academia.
  3. Start a podcast series updating us on the latest about COVID-19 and education.  It might have to be fairly frequent, given the speed of events.
  4. Run an email newsletter updating readers on the latest about COVID-19 and education.  Each issue would be smaller than FTTE, which is monthly.
  5. Launch a public research project on how campuses can best use the digital world to protect their communities while conducting their educational missions.  This could include blog posts here, articles, video, audio, interviews, discussions, etc.
  6. Keep doing what I’ve been doing with blogging and Twitter.

I’m putting this to you all, dear readers, because I need your guidance.  I want to help higher education through this crisis, and also want to do so well.

What do you think?  Please use the comments box below.  Vote in this poll:


And if you prefer to reach out to me privately, click here.

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7 Responses to Coronavirus and academia: what can we do to help now?

  1. Joe Murphy says:

    I’m noticing that I’m not seeing any discussion of cooperation, anywhere. All the solutions seem to be based on some form of hunkering down and focusing internally. And given physical quarantine, maybe that’s the best we could hope for… but it seems like now would be a really good time to talk about inter-institutional disaster preparedness and business continuity.

  2. Davin Heckman says:

    Since I am on sabbatical (and since many academics have more time in the summer), a good idea is to volunteer to provide care for the ill and elderly in the case of community outbreak. If you aren’t in a high risk group, the best thing you can do is to make yourself available to help others if medical resources are thin. Buying groceries, checking in on people, bringing them to get care if they need it, etc.

    Jailbreak content behind firewalls so that everyone has access to it, until the crisis subsides.

    A more specifically “academic” thing we could is for those who have access with people who have caught the virus is to record anecdotes of the sickness and recovery. I think ethnography could go a long way towards giving a clearer picture of what the typical case is like. People are too fearful right now due to the uncertainty. People should be cautious, but try not to be scared. And maybe academics can help with circulating information in an honest way.

    My sense is that most people who get it, recover pretty well. And many don’t even know they are sick… and go shopping, to the gym, to work, etc. So, there is reason for optimism here, that the dire scenarios are overblown. BUT, that also means that there is a communication problem, because these people might do better to avoid going to the gym, to work, etc. On the other hand, I am entirely dependent on media reports…

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Davin, that’s a lot of good advice.

      jailbreaking: have you see good examples of this?

      ethnography: brilliant idea. Perhaps my blogging here is a kind of macro-futures parallel.

      volunteer to care: personally, I really wish I could do that, but I’m doing 65-hour weeks through December.

      • Davin Heckman says:

        Jailbreak sounds more sexy than just ripping. But I think, if you have subscriptions to publications that have good information on the Coronavirus…. and they aren’t letting the public read this info… a good idea might be print to pdf and share the pdfs or copy paste the content, etc. Especially since there is a lot of very questionable, but scary content circulating. Maybe some more sober material is good.

        Yeah, and helping out…. I know a lot of people don’t have time. Maybe summer, people will have time and help will be needed. But especially if you are drawing a public salary or work at a private school that is underwritten by grants or philanthropy…. I think it’s OK to put research and rest aside and get your hands dirty for a while. If you have good insurance, are reasonably healthy, do salaried work, and have a break in your schedule…. you might be a perfect helper.

        It’s sad to say it. But as an academic humanist…. I don’t know how much good scholarly writing does. Learning is important work in most cases. But we live by very fundamental things…. bodies, food, water, love… It’s hard for me to trust knowledge that is too wrapped up in the “profession.”

  3. Roxann says:

    Maybe consider looking at using social VR to pilot a few FTTE Virtual Meetups? – maybe explore invitational/informal meetings open to students and educators?
    I hosted a few virtual meetings for educators and students last March- April that were open conversations about COVID-19 these were general open, frank discussions on the pandemic for educators and students.
    It would be an innovative approach to inviting educators to explore and dip a toe into the virtual reality world, with or without VR equipment. I would recommend a follow up poll or survey on the experience too.

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