The University of Cambridge in Britain announced late Tuesday that due to the coronavirus pandemic it would cancel all in-person lectures until summer 2021.
The prestigious university is the first among Britain’s prominent schools to move all classes online for the next academic year.
The university stated that small-group instruction which follows safe physical distancing might be possible. Its decision follows a plan by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to phase out the existing lockdown slowly. Britain has the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases globally, with more than 250,000 confirmed cases as of May 20.
In New York, where COVID-19 cases are concentrated, major institutions like Cornell University and Columbia University initially transitioned to virtual lectures in early March but have yet to announce plans for the 2020/21 academic year.
California State University last week became the first major U.S. college to announce it will move to a primarily virtual classroom this fall.
As U.S. colleges have grappled with this dilemma, there have been many disappointed college seniors and incoming college freshmen, canceled sports teams and unique challenges facing historically black colleges and universities. Some students have demanded refunds and discounts, saying the level of instruction is inadequate, and virtual classes should come at a reduced tuition.
The move to online education in higher education and lower grades has raised questions about the quality and effectiveness of virtual learning.
A 2017 Brookings Institution study provided evidence that students in online courses “perform substantially worse than students in traditional in-person courses,” and such experiences can “impact performance in future classes and their likelihood of dropping out of college as well.”
A 2014 MIT study produced different results, saying an on-campus experience was not superior to a virtual one.