Prof. Kamlesh Misra
Rishihood University, Sonipat
The world today has been facing the biggest Public Health Risk which is leading to one of the largest and the quickest reorganization of the world order. By the end of March 2020, the epidemic had spread to over 185 countries and resulted in closure over 90 percent of all schools, colleges and universities impacting close to 1.38 billion students. The speed of the spread of the epidemic, the closure of higher education institutions and the transition to online teaching was so swift that it hardly gave any time to plan and to reflect on the potential risks or the potential opportunities that such a sudden change could bring. Given such a situation it is important to look at the impact and reflect back on what has transpired and what is likely to happen as we move forward to returning to a normal situation even though the new normal will be completely different from what we all have been accustomed to earlier.
A number of changes are likely to be obvious and have already started showing up. The entire higher education sector will have to go through not just a reform but a major transformation both globally and in India. The whole concept of education abroad will change at least in the short-term and possibly in the long-term as well. A large number of students who were planning to study abroad will change their plans and find ways of completing their studies locally till we are able to find solution to the problem we are faced with. The whole concept of defining study abroad by geographic mobility may change and a new framework that focuses on mobility of student minds could become more relevant. As a result, Universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand will see a decline or reduction in enrollments as a large proportion of the international students in these countries will be either from China or India.
Higher education will witness a shift to higher emphasis on online learning. It will however, not lead to a disruptive shift but more of a shift to blended learning models. Although there is speculation that there will be a dramatic shift to online learning, I have doubts that such a scenario will emerge. Shift to complete online learning will be a very dull proposition from a student’s point of view and will result in nothing other than developing very passive learning environment for the students. Online learning is a special kind of methodology and not all teachers are good at it or at least not all of them were ready for the sudden transition from face to face learning to online learning. Thus, most of the teachers are just conducting lectures on video platforms such as zoom which may not be real online learning in the absence of a dedicated online platform specifically designed for the purpose. There is a risk that in such a situation, learning outcomes may not be achieves and it may be only resulting in engaging the students.Universities and colleges will shift to a model of blended learning where both face to face delivery along with online model will become a norm. This will require all teachers to become more technology savvy and go through some training to bring themselves to the level that would be required. New ways of delivery and assessments of learning outcomes will have to be adopted which opens immense opportunities for a major transformation in the area of curriculum development and pedagogy.
In the post Covid-19 scenario, Learning Management Systems at universities and colleges will become the new norm. A great opportunity will open up for those companies that have been developing and strengthening learning management systems for use by universities and colleges. This has the potential to grow at a very fast pace but will have to be priced appropriately for use by all institutions. Such a shift to a technology platform will also create new opportunities for universities and colleges to start improving the quality of the learning material that is used in the teaching and learning process. Since blended learning will be the new format of learning there will be a push to find new ways to design and deliver quality content especially due to the fact that use of learning management systems will bring about more openness and transparency in academics.
Finally, there will be rise in collaborative work. The teaching community has, to a large extent, been very insulated and more so in a country like India. There is a new opportunity where collaborative teaching and learning can take on new forms and can even be monetized. Faculty members/ teachers can deliver online courses to even students from competing institutions. Collaborations can also happen among faculty/teachers across the Nation to benefit from each other. It is expected that there will be a massive rise in teleconferencing opportunities which can also have a negative impact on the travel plans of members of the academic community. A large number of academic meeting, seminars and conferences will move online and there is possibility that some new form of online conferencing platform will emerge as a business model.
After all this, there is one certainty that we can envisage and that is going to change how higher education will be globally and in India. India is not going through just a reform in higher education, now it will go through a major transformation.