Has the coronavirus pandemic changed higher education for good?

The higher education sector has relied on innovation to ensure its survival during the coronavirus crisis. But is this innovation long lasting, or a temporary solution?

The coronavirus crisis brought unexpected and significant disruption to the lives of many.

As a result of travel restrictions and social distancing, people, businesses and sectors have been forced to adapt and find new ways to survive the crisis.

The higher education sector was no different, relying heavily on eLearning to continue teaching their students as travel restrictions persisted.

While institutions were utilising eLearning to a degree prior to the coronavirus crisis, the adoption of this approach was slow, with the perception that face-to-face and traditional learning was superior to digital approaches.

The coronavirus pandemic not only accelerated this shift to eLearning but encouraged the advancement of the technology used in the remote learning process.

According to The World Economic Forum: “Before the pandemic, the online learning environment existed predominantly as a virtual filing cabinet… The pandemic has illuminated what can be done with this online space: it can be engaging, enriching and accessible”.

The question now stands regarding whether the sector’s reliance on eLearning will remain as the pandemic subsides, or whether it will only ever be seen as a temporary solution to an imminent issue.

In their recent research article, Forever Changed! Innovation and the Future Post-Covid Higher Education Landscape, Professor Jerry Yoram Wind and CEO of QS, Nunzio Quacquarelli, examine the future of higher education.

The paper presents 10 areas of innovation that the higher education sector should reflect on in the wake of the various impacts we’ve seen in the last year, including unemployment, social injustices and economic downturn.

According to the authors, focusing on these areas should “help universities to reimagine their offerings and move to a new higher education paradigm, which will widen access, increase efficiency and lead to better learning, better career outcomes and personal growth, and have a positive social impact”.

A sample of the innovation opportunities that now exist for the higher education sector include:

Improved eLearning for life-long education of larger global education markets

More students than ever before are open to attaining their degree via online means, with 44% of student respondents to a recent QS survey revealing an acceptance of this new approach to learning. Enhanced eLearning, including hybrid models, is also now on the cards, with a focus on producing eLearning models that equip students with skills required for the 21st century employment market.

Transformation of current pedagogical approaches

The new acceptance of eLearning is set to change the approach to teaching in more ways than one. Personalisation to individual learning styles and flexibility are just two benefits of embracing technology as part of the teaching process, whether in full or as part of a blended learning approach.

Experiential learning, gamification and playful learning

When technology is explored as part of the higher education teaching process, the opportunities are endless. Augmented or virtual reality is just one of the many innovative ways that technology is being used to enhance learning, with work also being done on how gamification can play its part.

For a full list and further insights into the opportunities that might await higher education going forward, please see the report: Forever Changed! Innovation and the Future Post-Covid Higher Education Landscape. You can also register for QS’ annual Reimagine Education event at www.reimagine-education.com/

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