Transformation Of Higher Education; How COVID- 19 Is Changing The Face Of Education

The pandemic has drained economies around the world and has struck our education system like a lightning bolt and shaken it to its core. Just as the First Industrial Revolution forged today’s system of education, we can expect a different educational model to emerge from COVID-19.

The pandemic has undoubtedly upended business for schools, colleges and universities. Campuses have moved to remote learning instantaneously and institutions are also grappling with grave financial challenges as the domestic and global economies may enter a major recession. The outbreak of this pandemic has demanded of institutions to foray into virtual learning mode; it has forced schools, colleges and universities to bring their courses online. This is just one breakthrough in a new educational paradigm.The impact has been dramatic and transformative as educators scramble to put in place workable short-term solutions for remote teaching and learning, particularly in emerging markets, where students and schools face additional challenges related to financing and available infrastructure.

While each level of education faces its unique challenges, it is the higher education segment that may end up, by necessity, triggering a learning revolution and metamorphose into a completely new domain. Universities are distinctive in that their students are both old enough to handle the rigours of online work and technologically savvy enough to navigate new platforms. The real challenge lies for the institutions in which they have enrolled. Can traditional, campus-based universities adapt by choosing the right technologies and approaches for educating and engaging their students? The successes and failures that unfold should give us all a better grasp of what is possible.

Right now, video-conferencing applications like Zoom, Google meet, Webex, Skype, Youtube Live, Facebook Live, Skype, Blackboard, Cisco Webex, Vimeo Livestream, are providing universities a lifeline. However, lecturers are still struggling to maintain the same depth of engagement with students they could have in a classroom setting. They need to find solutions to avoid a dip in the quality of education they are providing.

The appetite of students for online education will likely grow because of the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, many universities were seeing declines in enrolment for campus-based programmes and parallel increases in uptake of online courses. With COVID-19, we are seeing how yesterday’s disruptors can become today’s lifeguards. While traditional institutions once viewed online education as a threat, it has come to their rescue.

The adoption of online solutions in recent months has been unprecedented. In the short term, educators are applying a ‘first aid’ solution by switching entirely from in-person to remote instruction, a move that has been forced upon them by sudden mandatory campus closures. But they are quickly realizing that remote learning is just a baby step towards online education. Some of the partnerships sparked between universities, online education companies and tech providers may continue beyond the pandemic.

More fundamentally, COVID-19 is challenging deep-rooted notions of when, where, and how we deliver education, of the role of colleges and universities, the importance of life-long learning, and the distinction we draw between traditional and non-traditional learners.

Needless to say, the pandemic has transformed the centuries-old, chalk–talk teaching model to one driven by technology. This disruption in the delivery of education is pushing policymakers to figure out how to drive engagement at scale while ensuring inclusive e-learning solutions and tackling the digital divide.

A multi-pronged strategy is necessary to manage the crisis and build a resilient Indian education system in the long term. In this time of crisis, a well-rounded and effective educational practice is what is needed for the capacity-building of young minds. It will develop skills that will drive their employability, productivity, health, and well-being in the decades to come, and ensure the overall progress of India.

The institution is prepared for whatever may come. The characteristics that comprise its unique student experience will not be compromised, no matter what happens. This institution is still the best option for current and prospective students . Addressing these challenges will require unprecedented levels of communication and personalized outreach. While the dynamics of the pandemic and its impacts continue to evolve, there are several approaches and strategies colleges and universities can employ as they contemplate their enrollment strategies for fall and beyond.

Lack of references to similar crisis in the past makes it difficult to predict what may happen in the immediate future. For the students the most immediate impact has naturally been that the temporary cessation of face to face teaching at HEIs has left them, particularly undergraduates and those who are about to finish upper secondary and aspire to enter higher education, in a completely new situation, without a clear idea of how long it will last, immediate impacts on daily life, costs incurred and financial burdens and, of course, learning continuity and international mobility.

It is high time that the Governments and HEIs should create coordination mechanisms that allow joint progress to be made in generating greater resilience in the higher education sector in the face of future crisis, whatever their nature may be.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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