The COVID-10 pandemic led to several unprecedented changes in the industry. It is expected to transform various aspects of life. One of the major changes it has brought is in the education industry. In-person classrooms have now changed to online classes. The future of education is now expected to be online. Speculatively, this will make higher education more accessible and significantly affordable.
Do we need four-year residential programs?
We can agree that four-year residential programs do not have all courses equally tough. Some courses can be easily taught with multi-media presentations and don’t require as much face-to-face interaction as other courses. Some courses on the other hand require more personalization and guidance at the individual level.
Bifurcating courses on this basis can pave way for modern education. Higher education institutions will need to figure out which courses can be commoditized. Students can take these courses at their own convenience and pace, at home or at any place of their choice. This will significantly reduce the efforts faculties have to make to teach such courses and free up their time. The saved time can be utilized in research-based teaching, personalized problem solving, and mentorship.
Also, students will have more resources at their disposal. They wouldn’t have to reside for four years to complete their college education. Students can utilize the time saved on campus for electives, group assignments, faculty office hours, interactions, and career guidance. This hybrid model of a college education has the potential to make college education more affordable.
What’s more, students, professors, and university administrators must keep a record of classes that are benefiting students from being taught remotely and of the ones that are not so helpful. Further, universities and colleges must get feedback from students and teachers on course delivery, course design, and evaluation methods. These data points will help institutions make future decisions on which and why some classes can be taught remotely. And the ones that should remain on the campus. Moving away from the traditional way of teaching, the future of higher education could be a hybrid model involving both online and in-person classes.
What improvements in IT infrastructure are required?
With our daily experience, we can attest that though we have gotten used to virtual meetings, we still have a long way to go in optimizing our online learning experience. Conference call applications lack key functionalities that facilitate a good learning experience. For instance, a typical conference software is unable to accommodate 1000 students. Further, teachers can sense when students can’t go with the flow and they slow down the pace of lectures, such in-class experience is hard to replicate in conference software.
What’s more, instructors and students should discuss their pain points to facilitate technological development in these areas.
Courses will further need educational support from instructional designers, trainers, and coaches to ensure that students continue learning and complete their course. What else is concerning is the digital divide that separates rich and poor students; private universities and public universities. Online education will further amplify this gap. Rich students have high-end laptops, more bandwidth, and more sophisticated audio-visual gadgets.
Similarly, top private universities have better IT infrastructure and can offer better online education with higher IT support staff compared to budget-starved public universities. The future of education will depend significantly on the IT infrastructure universities and colleges manage to get. Institutions will need to assess their infrastructure and think of ways to optimize it for delivering a higher quality of education. Two essential parameters to assess this would be: increasing the number of IT staff and/or upgrading their infrastructure.
What is the future of education?
The pandemic has brought the education industry to the crossroads of innovation and necessity. The current solution to the prevailing situation seems worthwhile in delivering education. In theory, the solution seems effective. What would stick till the end will decide the future of education till then institutions need to keep experimenting.