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A Day in the Life of a College Student amid a Pandemic

September 11, 2020
  • Higher Education

Pre-pandemic, college students spent their days bouncing around campus. They might start the day in a café with friends, head to a lecture hall for class and stop by the crowded dining hall for lunch. Then perhaps they’d stay there to get some work done between classes and end up at the library for an evening club meeting or study session.

Social distancing guidelines are transforming the average day on campus. Gone are the days of crowded stands at football games and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in lectures. Today, some colleges and universities are starting the school year virtually, while others are partially or entirely opening their campuses. Here’s our vision of what the return to campus looks like in the time of coronavirus.

9 a.m. Morning Lecture

After grabbing a to-go coffee and muffin for breakfast from the lobby of her dorm, our student rushes off to her first class of the day. Even though the class comprises 50 students, she’ll enter a large lecture hall where four of every five seats have been taped off.

At the door, she’ll be greeted by a sanitation check-in station. The magnetic markerboard surface of a Connection Zone screen displays a hand-drawn picture of the school mascot wearing a mask and holds a shelf with a bottle of hand sanitizer and a thermometer, which she uses to scan her forehead as part of a mandatory temperature check.

10:30 a.m. Discussion Group

Our student heads to her next class, a discussion group of about 12 students. The classroom is filled with small groups of chairs with a flip-up desk surface, like our Strive Task Chairs with the ChangeUp Tablet Arm. The chairs are spaced six feet apart but arranged in circles to allow students to safely chat with peers.

Since the chairs are on casters, students can start the class in groups of three for a review of the week’s readings, then reconfigure for an all-class discussion. The professor uses a mobile lectern, like the one in our Ruckus Collection, to move from one group of students to the next, all while maintaining a safe distance.

12 p.m. Lunch Break

When her classes are over, our student heads to the dining hall to meet a friend for lunch. Instead of the self-serve buffets that were formerly the hallmark of college dining, our student chooses from among several boxed lunches.

After grabbing a turkey wrap, she finds a small, mobile table like Pirouette. Tables can be pushed together or pulled further apart to easily create eating surfaces so students can sit an appropriate distance from one another. Reconfigurable walls like Genius wall serve as a partition, separating her from students grabbing their meals.

4 p.m. Late-Afternoon Study Session  

At the end of her last class, our student walks to the library for some study time. She’s eager to beat the crowd and reserve an individual privacy pod, like our WiggleRoom pod, to hunker down and knock out some assigned reading. These pods are popular among students who want a private, individual space where they can tune out the din of student chatter.

Our student probably doesn’t notice this, but the privacy pods are laid out intentionally in neat rows. This set-up subtly directs foot traffic and helps administrators monitor the number of students flowing in and out of the library.  An occupancy light indicates when the pod is in-use and a motion-activated “ceiling fan” constantly refreshes the air within the pod.

8 p.m. Movie Night

After several hours of studying, our student is happy to retire to her dorm’s common room for a movie night. The resident assistant reconfigured the lounge furniture, like the pieces in our MyPlace Lounge Collection, into a theater-like layout with seating spaced out for social distancing.

Despite all the changes to her typical college routine, our student grabs a bottle of soda and bag of chips, kicks her feet up on the ottoman and settles in for a fun night with her hallmates.

Evolving the College Experience

So much has changed since the start of last school year. There’s no telling exactly when colleges will be able to operate the same way they used to. But the college experience will continue. Students are still learning, finding mentors and making new friends.

With some careful design changes, schools can ensure their students still cherish their college years -- even if those years end up being far different than they envisioned.

by Bryan Ballegeer  Education Market VP

As KI's VP of Education, Bryan provides KI with research and insight into education. Bryan previously served as the Director of Operations for Success Academy Charter Schools. He has direct experience with collaborative, problem-solving education models along with a passion for service. He holds a Chairman position with Stem For Dance, a non-profit that provides young women of color exposure to STEM-based fields of study. Bryan holds a Master’s in Supply Chain Management from Rutgers University having received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University.


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