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Will the face of the higher education sector change after the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

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Seemingly, enlisting with an upmarket college/university is believed to be a “ticket to paradise” among the youths. Joining a prestigious university is a trustworthy pathway for upward mobility and is even considered a symbol of privilege, too. Global Universities have been constantly trying to charm wealthy international students, aiming to receive a hefty tuition fee for their international brand. However, Covid-19 has challenged their business model and changed the game, sort of, taken revenge.

This outbreak has compelled global experimentation with remote learning. Millions of students around the globe have been constrained to choose remote learning because campuses were closed in an attempt to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Experts say (Bates, 2020) that this outbreak has brought forth a substantial piece of suggestions for educators as well.

The COVID-19 outbreak has been the most dangerous challenge the world has witnessed, which has affected everyone, from the household to the business sector. Education too could not remain untouched, this outbreak has raised a question regarding the face of the higher education sector, will it change after the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

The higher education institutions opted for either remote learning or hybrid learning mode during this outbreak. While remote teaching is more material based (readings, videos, exercises, etc.) and lacks personal interactions, hybrid learning is the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning” (Garrison and Kanuka 2004). According to UN reports, the global recession caused by this virus might bring forth many challenges for the higher education sector and may enforce a change in the higher education sector. Among all, the most important challenge will be a shift in students’ attitude towards the mode and preference of a particular course or program. This outbreak has magnified the cost-benefit tradeoff, the uniqueness of services offered by these luxurious universities, and the super low cost of online education provided through MOOC platforms, which are killing face-to-face university education.

During these troubling times, these fancy universities can no longer rest on their laurels. As per the QS survey conducted in 2020 with over 30,000 respondents on the subject “The Impact of Coronavirus on Prospective International Students”, around 65 % of students dropped the idea of going abroad for higher study and up to 60% chose an online degree. To add more, a vast majority of respondents argued that the fee should be discounted, reflecting the real value of the course. This outbreak has unveiled the genuine feature of remote teaching and, because of its increasing demand, availability of ample LMS platforms, budgetary benefits, and endless opportunities for future innovation, these online learning environments are witnessing a perfect evolution. Do experts believe this outbreak will leave an unanswered question behind “Is it better to return to face-to-face learning or continue the status quo”?

Before the outbreak, the higher education sector relied heavily on the conventional methods of teaching and may continue to use the same model after this outbreak is over. However, the futuristic and ambitious institutions may consider this opportunity as a launchpad for their new models of higher education. According to the QS report, in 2021, a few universities like Kaplan and the University of Arizona are going for such a partnership where both online and face-to-face learning could be blended together.

Experts believe innovative technologies like virtual manipulatives, gamification, animations, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented reality can improve students’ learning outcomes and success immensely. These innovative learning management platforms will certainly make teaching and learning more effective and will optimize faculty time with students. In fact, as per QS report 2021, many professors are vouching for the use of innovative technologies such as Moodle, Blackboard, and Canvas which has assisted them in inspiring students to explore, make connections between ideas and develop skills of critical inquiry results in “cognitive presence” (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer 2000). However, nothing can replace a prolific educator, and no matter how much advanced the technology is, campus/residential teaching is entirely a distinct experience. It helps shape the future of youth and transforms them into responsible professionals. According to UNO, the hybrid learning model is presumably going to be the optimal and preferred concept in the future.

The footprint of the current situation has left a profound impact on the higher education sector globally, and is forcing them to question their traditional operating models, old strategies and pressurizes them to evolve with a new face. Hence, the higher education sector at this point should galvanize themselves to cope with these challenges and should concentrate on resilience, quality, relevance, content, agility, etc. Such skills are not only crucial for 21st-century students but are also vital for the 21st-century higher education sector.

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Will the face of the higher education sector change after the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

By: Anubha Srivastava Read time: 13 min