Many colleges and universities are preparing incoming students for fall classes, amid a complex landscape of re-entry plans due to COVID-19. Schools are pursuing a variety of instructional modalities, including live and asynchronous online classes, reduced-size or no in-person classes, and hybrid classes with some mix of it all. At schools where in-person attendance is allowed, the emphasis is on classes. Related student activities, such as sports, clubs, and so on may be nonexistent or extremely limited, due to the demands of social distancing and the need to repurpose facilities and rooms for lower densities. As institutions are forced to make hard choices, it’s going to be more important than ever for school amateur radio clubs to find ways to continue, even if in-person meetings are impossible.
Some campus radio clubs continue to sponsor training and testing of new hams by using videoconferencing and asynchronous communications to offer instruction and support. ARRL’s Instructor Discount Program includes reduced-price self-study license manuals, including the popular ARRL Ham Radio License Manual. The discount program is ordinarily offered to ARRL-registered instructors, but ARRL has temporarily extended the program to any in-school students who call to order ARRL License Manuals by referencing their school radio club or their ARRL-registered instructor. Call toll-free (888) 277-5289, Monday – Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM Eastern Time.
Club instructors can download free instructional resources for use with The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, including PowerPoint slides, syllabus, and study review questions. Some college clubs are providing scheduled online license tests. For example, the Columbia University Amateur Radio Club in New York City and the MIT Radio Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have scheduled online license examinations.
To make club resources available when in-person gatherings are not possible, some college clubs have remote-enabled their radio stations. California Polytechnic (Cal Poly) recently shared the details of the monthly ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) web conference in July. The monthly online conferences continue into the fall.
The Collegiate QSO Party is planned for September 19 – 20. The QSO Party is an operating event focused on amateur radio clubs at colleges and universities around the world. Each fall, the Collegiate QSO Party provides an opportunity for clubs to demonstrate amateur radio to new members, engage with alumni, and promote activity throughout college and university communities.
For school clubs that can find a way to keep their members involved, these times could be an opportunity, as there will be fewer extracurricular activities competing for students’ time and attention. The student population in general is already comfortable and thriving with a variety of online activities. The key to getting, and keeping, more young people involved in amateur radio may be to follow their lead: more online and non-traditional amateur radio-based activities, where the “radio part” is a component of a high-altitude balloon, semi-autonomous seafaring robot, or communications network.