Cleaning Automation, COVID-19, Higher Education Tue, Sep 1, '20
Autonomous Cleaning Helps Higher Ed Achieve Safe and Successful Fall Semester

Fall semester is in full swing. Colleges and universities around the country are reopening their campuses to students, with many opting for a blend of both in-person and digital learning options. According to Davidson College and the Chronicle of Higher Education, nearly 65% of colleges and universities currently plan to conduct some level of in-person instruction in Fall 2020. Only 6% have decided to conduct classes fully online, while 24% of schools have yet to finalize fall plans (New York Times). 

A Difficult Decision

This decision has not been easy for higher education administrators. As the pandemic continues and the U.S. simultaneously stares down the barrel of the upcoming flu season, higher education campuses have found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. Bringing students and faculty on campus is not without its risks, but most colleges and universities are neither equipped for fully online education nor would such a move be fiscally sustainable. 

The higher education sector has already experienced major financial impact due to the pandemic including budget cuts, event cancellations, and lower enrollment as more students opt to take a gap year. 

Colleges and universities risk further drops in enrollment if they move classes fully online, especially if tuition rates are unchanged. These and other factors have led the majority of colleges and universities to adopt a diverse range of hybrid models that contain at least some level of in-person instruction. 

Gearing Up for a Successful Fall Semester

To reopen campuses safely, colleges and universities must mitigate COVID-19 risks to protect the health and safety of students and faculty. Ideally, doing so while reducing the incidence of costly, unexpected closures due to outbreaks. One key strategy campuses have turned to is autonomous cleaning technology.

1. Ensure a High Level of Cleanliness in Common Areas 

It’s no surprise that keeping your campus clean has never been more important than it is now. High-touch areas must be routinely disinfected and sanitized, both of which require significant time and attention to complete properly. For many college campuses, cleaning teams are already stretched thin, so keeping up with increased cleaning requirements may require additional staff or overtime.

A better alternative is autonomous cleaning solutions, like Whiz, the commercial robot vacuum from Softbank Robotics. Whiz offloads up to 30% of your cleaning team’s time by autonomously vacuuming large carpeted areas like hallways, study rooms, and lounge areas. The time saved gives your existing facilities maintenance crew the ability to focus on thorough disinfection and sanitization. In addition, because they have adequate time to complete each task, cleaning teams can maintain higher levels of cleaning quality and will not need to resort to ineffective spot cleaning.

2. Improve Air Quality in Indoor Spaces 

Recent research has shown that the coronavirus spreads most rapidly indoors and in poorly-ventilated or enclosed areas. Ensuring indoor air quality is therefore critical to maintaining the health and wellness of students, faculty, and staff. Carpets are the number one air filter in indoor spaces. However, manual vacuuming is extremely time-consuming, and cleaning teams are more likely to skip vacuuming or resort to spot cleaning when they are short on time. In contrast, robotic vacuum cleaners clean quickly, thoroughly, and consistently day after day. For example, Whiz uses HEPA filters that capture 99.97% of particles, dust, and pollen; this leads to a cleaning quality that is 8x better than manual vacuuming and an environment that is infinitely better to breathe in.

3. Visually Represent Your Commitment to Cleaning 

The financial sustainability of many campuses depends on students remaining enrolled for the duration of the semester. To encourage students to stay enrolled in the fall, and re-enroll in the spring, students must feel safe coming to school. In addition, faculty must have confidence in the risk mitigation efforts the school has put in place. Autonomous cleaning solutions are a visual representation of your college’s commitment to cleaning. Seeing an autonomous vacuum sweeper cleaning the floors of the school every day is one way to demonstrate that your campus is committed to safety and has invested in technology to achieve a healthier environment. 

5. Reduce the Risk of School Closures

School closure due to outbreaks can be costly, and bad PR can be detrimental to a school’s reputation if news of an outbreak travels. To mitigate the risk of school closures, higher education campuses must be proactive, rather than reactive, in their cleaning strategies. Autonomous cleaning solutions can help colleges and universities get ahead of the challenges and make rigorous cleaning possible--even with limited resources.

5. Save Costs  

Finally, autonomous cleaning is surprisingly cost-effective and does not need to be a major capital expenditure. In fact, with Whiz, autonomous vacuuming is significantly less expensive than employing additional manual labor, and it enables a much higher level of cleaning overall compared to manual cleaning alone. In addition, Whiz is available with a subscription model that allows campuses to rent, rather than own, the equipment for a low monthly fee--with no upfront costs and no unforeseen maintenance expenses. Furthermore, Whiz can be deployed quickly to immediately improve your cleaning protocols as you welcome students back to campus.


Autonomous cleaning technologies can empower your higher education campus to safely navigate the fall semester.

Contact SoftBank Robotics today to learn more about how to make Whiz your newest brand ambassador.