A notification appears on your computer reminding you of a midday Zoom meeting with your professor and peers. You log in and see your professor wearing a bathrobe and sipping orange juice as he lectures you on the difference between Aristotle and Marcus Aurelius. You take notes and, at the end of the lecture, log-off and take a break.
This is how many universities and students are dealing with the changes wrought by coronavirus. The pandemic, which has forced higher education institutions across the world to close their doors, has also led them to rethink their approach to educating students.
While there had been resistance from some higher education institutions to making the shift to online learning, the pandemic left them with no choice.
Consequently those systems that usually prevent institutions from getting anything done have been forced to work together towards a common goal. This has ensured an efficient use of resources and a team effort that means students are getting the most from their professors in this setting.
The result has been many professors seem keener on online teaching and more open to incorporating digital elements into their courses after the pandemic.
A long-term consequence of this move could be the development of online courses that enable students to move at their own pace, with additional tools to help when they run into trouble.
Any institution that wishes to avoid the long-term economic impact of this pandemic is already considering implementing online teaching strategies. This is especially pertinent in the US, where research has shown half of adult Americans would prefer to carry out further education online when this crisis is over.
With many international students unlikely to physically visit western institutions to study, having a viable online operation will be essential to attracting students for remote study, which could prevent a potential drop in tuition fees and attendance.
Of course, some claim the pandemic won’t cause too many changes to the higher education system. They cite studies by Eduventures and OneClass that show 75% of students don’t think they have been receiving a quality learning experience online, while according to niche.com 67% of students don’t find online classes as effective as in-person classes.
These findings could present a silver lining for institutions as they suggest students may no longer take the everyday realities of physically attending an institution for granted — be it the low-tech, face-to-face classes or the in-person office hours and social interactions with peers.
Such a revelation could see students demand more effective in-person changes to their institutions following the pandemic, which could have a knock-on effect regarding attracting students in the future.
Ultimately, however, the future of higher education institutions depends on two key issues. Firstly, institutions that can cut through their own red tape and work as a united front to implement changes will be the ones to survive.
They will need to implement proper online education systems that stand the test of time and consider offering other incentives to potential students such as needs-based aid or more scholarships.
Institutions will also have to make their worth known to funding bodies such as national governments to demonstrate they are a viable business that contributes to the economy of their host nation.
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