The coronavirus crisis has encouraged many industries and nations to reconsider the way they do things, and higher education is no exception.
In times of crisis, innovative solutions must be found to address new, complex challenges.
The coronavirus crisis provides the higher education sector with an opportunity to reimagine education and how it’s delivered, moving beyond how things were done and creating new solutions for a drastically changed climate.
By reimagining education, institutions can explore how learning could be delivered in a blended format, available anytime and anywhere, through public-private partnerships involving digital technology.
In a recent article, University World News stated that COVID-19 may even accelerate the end of the traditional semester-based system for collegiate registration, progression, and graduation.
“To return to the semester-by-semester course structure is to deny one of the lasting implications of COVID-19: change. The virus has put its imprint on all facets of collegiate life, including the traditional way students accumulate the number of credits needed to graduate.”
So, how are higher education professionals rethinking the basic purposes of education, and the pedagogic models better suited for the ever-present possibilities of insecurity, risk, and relentless change?
The International Commission on the Futures of Education was launched in 2019 by UNESCO to “reimagine how knowledge and learning can shape the future of humanity and the planet.”
In 2020, the organization published a report, Education in a Post-COVID World: Nine Ideas for Public Action, which examined the ripple effects of the coronavirus crisis and how it had hampered the education of 1.5 billion students, often exacerbating existing inequalities.
“There is a serious risk that COVID-19 will wipe out several decades of progress—most notably the progress that has been made in addressing poverty and gender equality. While the pandemic demonstrates that we belong to one interconnected humanity, social and economic arrangements mean that the impacts of the virus are disparate and unjust. Gender discrimination means that girls’ educational attainments are likely to suffer greatly, with a risk of many not returning to school post-COVID-19. This is not something we should accept; we must do everything in our power to prevent it.”
The nine ideas proposed in this report reinforce the importance of equal access to education, suggesting that leaders strengthen education as a common good, expand the right to education to include connectivity and access to resources (only 11% of learners in sub-Saharan Africa have a household computer, compared to 50% of learners globally), and place more value on the teaching profession and collaboration with teachers.
The report also highlights the importance of free and open source technologies that are available to teachers and students.
“Open educational resources and open access digital tools must be supported. Education cannot thrive with ready-made content built outside of the pedagogical space and outside of human relationships between teachers and students.”
The COVID-19 crisis presents institutions and educators across the globe with the opportunity to reimagine how they deliver education, explore new technologies, and address the inequalities the sector may exacerbate. So, what role will your institution play in navigating this seismic shift?
To explore the future of education post-COVID-19, please register for the QS virtual conference, Reimagine Education, held from the 9-11 December 2020.