Back-To-School Challenges For International Student Programs: Virtual Learning & Student Wellness

This year’s back-to-school season looks very different than any other year because of the enormous impact of COVID-19. COVID-19 has pushed us all to adjust our routines and traditions, especially for our students and schools. We are incredibly encouraged by the resilience and flexibility of our community. In this unprecedented school year, we must remain flexible and quickly adapt to changing conditions and circumstances. Understandably, we will encounter hurdles as we continuously improve our processes and programs. Even as educators, we are still learning to deal with our new normal and collective recovery each day.

Virtual Learning Challenges

As we receive feedback on nationwide virtual and remote learning challenges because of internet connectivity and cybersecurity issues, we would like to remind our partners that open communication is essential during these frustrating times. It is critical that you communicate with your community about your digital responsibilities and outline the steps you are taking to address any problems. It is also essential to ask for patience and understanding due to the extraordinary nature of this year. Some of these disruptions may be entirely outside of your control. Last week, major online education providers such as Blackboard experienced record spikes in traffic and led to system outages and reported problems with Microsoft Teams and Google Drive. If necessary, schools can establish a back-up system utilizing free alternative video conferencing platforms for the first few weeks of school if technical issues persist.

With the switch to virtual learning, schools have seen an increase in absenteeism in their classrooms. If your international student program is currently experiencing this issue, please reach out to your Cambridge Network support staff. We will help resolve this matter through our academic and family education advisors. We want to remind our partners that Google Classroom may be inaccessible to students in China without a VPN. Therefore, international students may not be intentionally avoiding classes.


Cybersecurity remains a top priority for schools and businesses utilizing video conferencing platforms. We strongly encourage schools to review their cybersecurity protocols, implement passwords on all meetings, and add virtual waiting rooms for classrooms as reports of deliberate internet attack remain on the rise. Parents and staff are also encouraged to act as well and report any instances of cyberattacks. If your school has run into cyberattack issues, we suggest that your school establish an internal task force or committee to address it.

Student Health and Emotional Wellness

As students may be impacted in multiple ways by COVID-19 and remote learning, we must be mindful of their emotional well-being. Without extracurricular and social activities, it’s vital that students balance school and other activities, get creative about how they spend their time, and connect with friends in new ways. Additionally, students should have conversations about positive preventive measures, talk about their fears, and gain a sense of control over their risk of infection to reduce anxiety.

Our local Student Development Managers will be engaging in these dialogues with our students during their regular check-ins throughout the school year. Additionally, Cambridge UP, our free online curriculum designed to develop the specific social-emotional and study skills needed by international students, will expand on several topics focused on challenges encountered during life with COVID-19. Weekly class topics include cultural awareness, having difficult conversations, resilience, health, and much more! Weekly lessons are available to all Cambridge students.

Residential Programs & Natural Parent Communication

Residential programs – homestay and dormitories – have had to adjust their policies to accommodate new safety concerns and international student care. Demands, needs, and anxieties at both the student and parent levels have drastically shifted, often with increased expectations and frequency.

Cambridge Network is here to provide support and consultation for schools managing their own international homestay programs that may be experiencing difficulties. We are proud to have welcomed several new homestay partnerships recently because of our comprehensive services and student-parent engagement, including:

Cambridge Network is committed to working with our school partners to deliver the best solutions for your international program needs. As always, please reach out to your Program Manager if you have any questions or concerns.

For schools looking for more information on Cambridge Network and our services, please submit an inquiry form.