The Spring 2020 semester began like most others. College and university campuses
opened, students returned from winter break, and academic courses resumed. By the
middle of March, the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact every aspect of our lives.
College campuses, where students live and learn closely together, were some of the first places to close. On March 7th, 2020, the University of Washington was the first large university to close its campus, and others quickly followed (Hess, 2020). It was a time of confusion, as higher education administrators grappled with how to keep their constituents safe while continuing to educate and meet the needs of students. Some extended spring break by a week to allow time for faculty to move to remote instruction. We found ourselves suddenly at home, perhaps alone or with children who were no longer in school, reliant on videoconferencing technology such as Zoom to stay connected. For students with intellectual disability (ID) enrolled in inclusive higher education programs, these changes upended business as usual. Program staff quickly pivoted their supports as classes moved online. Connecting with staff at other programs to share resources and strategies became critically important, and Facebook emerged as one platform for this. Think College at the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston began hosting weekly program staff support group meetings via Zoom on March 27th, providing a space for staff to share challenges and crowdsource solutions. Although most inclusive higher education programs continued via remote instruction, at least one was at a campus that suspended all non-degree programs, meaning students with ID were not able to complete the semester. In this article, we describe how programs responded to meet the needs of students with ID in response to campus closures and remote learning. We draw from our own experiences as well as notes from the Think College program staff meetings, focusing on academics, social inclusion, and employment, as well as the changing roles of peer mentors and families (Think College, 2020a, b, c, d). We end by looking forward to the Fall semester and beyond, examining the longer-term impact of remote instruction and what this could mean for inclusive higher education.
Papay, C. & Myers, B. A. (2020). Inclusive Higher Education in the Time of COVID-19. Journal of Inclusive Postsecondary Education, 2(2). https://doi.org/10.13021/jipe.2020.2834