What's the Future of Online Learning when Universities Reopen?
College campuses are buzzing cultural hubs where students from different parts of the world come together. It is also a place where students come close to each other where the COVID-19 can potentially spread.
So, the pandemic has impacted the education system like it has most other aspects of education and business.
As of 1st April 2020, more than 3.4 billion people went into a lockdown. This represents 43% of the world population across more than 80 countries and territories.
Educational institutions have been quick to respond and have invested in new solutions to unique problems. The lockdown has changed the way we perceive international education, with many universities going digital.
People are getting vaccinated, and colleges are opening up partially or entirely depending on local regulations. Yet, the pandemic has continued to hamper student mobility.
This article will discuss the impact of the pandemic on various aspects of education and the rise of online learning. So, keep reading to learn more about the effects and how institutions are overcoming them.
The pandemic increased the significance and importance of distance higher education. It also brought improvement in many aspects related to research collaboration. Even though colleges are opening up, it has made the methods of distance learning more relevant.
For instance, many educational institutions are bringing hybrid instruction programs. This will be a mixture of traditional classes and online learning. However, this will include ensuring internet access to all the students by the college.
Besides, the lockdown and social isolation have made everyone collectively appreciate life on a real campus. This has become important for students and academic staff as well.
Institutions have seen a dip in enrolments at the beginning of new semesters. However, this is only temporary as the pandemic can not disrupt the education system in the long term, according to experts.
Economic Impact on International Education
One of the most critical concerns for the educational sector is the economic impact. International students make up a significant percentage in the domestic higher education markets.
The travel restrictions have helped curb the spread of disease, and it has left international students stranded. This can negatively impact the economy of the institutes.
Effect on Academic Staff
The social distancing and required lockdown have given rise to more complex challenges to teaching. The primary challenge is teaching without being physically present in the classroom or laboratory. This led to the expansion of online classrooms and teaching materials.
Although international colleges and students could adapt to this quickly, several new challenges involved unequal access to communication technology and other resources.
For instance, many higher educational institutions in Brazil closed down entirely due to this factor. Another challenge was the quality of online learning when most staff were unprepared.
Aftermath on Research Departments
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the research in international educational centres in two ways. The first way is making it difficult for researchers to travel when required. Plus, it has hindered the way researchers got together and worked. This has led to communication problems and complications in completing joint projects.
On the other hand, the effect is positive. Numerous higher educational institutions are dedicating their infrastructure and academics to research on COVID-19. It includes researching vaccines, treating the disease, and the social impacts of the pandemic.
For example, the COVID-19 Data Center in the John Hopkins University tracks global trends of the virus daily.
How are the Educational Institutions Tackling These Issues?
When the institutions came to crossroads with the pandemic and international education, how did they deal with it?
Institutions have applied many effective tools to tackle these challenges. One of them is by keeping students in retention while maintaining their access to learning.
Universities across the world, particularly in Canada and the USA, have adjusted programs in response to the need for social distancing.
Besides, the majority of the institutions are integrating online education into their curriculum. Moving all the programs to online classes can be impossible, making this a practical and feasible solution.
Further, universities are strengthening their IT department and working closely with them. This will ensure students and the academic faculty receive all the assistance they need.
Administrators are taking measures to enforce social distancing in campuses to control the spread of the virus. This involves instructing students and staff to follow COVID-19 restrictions and protocol.
It includes instructing everyone on the campus to cover while sneezing or coughing with elbows, regular hand-washing, and self-isolation when anyone experiences flu symptoms.
New Standards for the New Normal
Online learning is becoming mainstream in response to the pandemic. The institutions are trying to cater to more students while keeping the class sizes small by using hybrid methods.
The new normal prioritizes flexibility and learning while adapting to the new reality and changing regulations. Also, many international education institutes are working on models that balance social distancing restriction and the necessity for an international experience.
The IAU (International Association of Universities) has initiated several programs to promote global cooperation among higher educational institutions. It started by launching a survey on the impact of the pandemic at institutions worldwide.
The IAU is also gathering information and sharing resources on COVID-19. Further, a series of webinars are conducted reflecting on the future of higher education in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world.
Both international and domestic higher education has been affected by the pandemic in many ways. Nonetheless, it increased the importance of distance higher education than ever before.
Colleges are opening up, and students are re-entering schools and colleges after several vaccination programs worldwide. Although the threat of the disease is looming, large international higher education institutions and local colleges have been adapting quickly to the new normal.
Universities have developed a hybrid working model and brought in new campus regulations to ensure social distancing. Plus, the International Association of Universities has initiated several programs to promote global cooperation and share resources.