On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. From that moment, leaders of institutions of higher education have had to make quick decisions about how to provide high-quality educational experiences for their students while protecting the health of their students, faculty, and staff and maintaining the fiscal stability of their institutions. By fall 2020, The Chronicle of Higher Education found in a survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. colleges and universities that 44 percent had fully or primarily migrated to online instruction, 27 percent had decided to continue primarily or fully in person, and 21 percent were taking a hybrid approach.1
Institutions of higher learning took various approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised two questions: what factors informed decisions at these institutions, and what new initiatives or practices seem to be effective for students during the COVID-19 pandemic? To explore these questions and others regarding the effect of higher education’s current COVID-19 response on students in undergraduate and graduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a virtual workshop consisting of four online sessions that took place between September 22 and October 6, 2020. Organized by the Board on Science Education and the Board on Higher Education and Workforce, the virtual workshops provided an opportunity for participants from a range of institutions to share strategies and lessons learned.
In the opening remarks, Robin Wright of the National Science Foundation (NSF) said that NSF’s hope in sponsoring these workshops was for participants to encounter ideas that would assist them (1) in creating better institutions that serve all students, (2) becoming resilient to disruptions large and small, and (3) ensuring that the nation will be able to leverage the power of STEM to maintain the health, security, and prosperity of its people. Planning committee chair Tasha Inniss of Spelman College said that the global health crisis provides higher education with a unique opportunity to do things differently, to consider factors and constituent voices in creating new initiatives and infrastructure, and to make changes in ways that could dismantle the systemic racism that affects STEM students.
This Proceedings of a Virtual Workshop Series has been prepared by Joe Alper as a factual summary of what occurred at the virtual meetings. The statements made are those of the author or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants, the planning committee, the Board on Science Education and Board on Higher Education and Workforce, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and
1 Here's our list of colleges’ reopening models. Chronicle of Higher Education. October 1, 2020. https://www.chronicle.com/article/heres-a-list-of-colleges-plans-for-reopening-in-the-fall.
Medicine, or the National Science Foundation. The planning committee was responsible only for organizing the workshop, identifying topics, and choosing speakers.