Will the face of the higher education sector change after the COVID-19 outbreak ends?

Apparently, enrolling in a high-end college/university is considered a “ticket to heaven” among young people. Joining a prestigious university is a reliable path for upward mobility and is even considered a symbol of privilege. Global universities have constantly tried to woo wealthy international students, aiming to receive high tuition fees for their international brand. However, Covid-19 challenged their business model and changed the game, in a way, took revenge.

This epidemic has constrained global experimentation with remote learning. Millions of students around the world have been forced to choose remote learning as campuses have been closed in an attempt to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. Experts say (Bates, 2020) that this epidemic has also given rise to substantial suggestions for educators.

The COVID-19 outbreak has been the most dangerous challenge the world has faced, affecting everyone from households to businesses. Education also could not stay intact, this outbreak has raised a question regarding the face of the higher education sector, will it change after the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

Higher education institutions have opted for either distance learning or blended learning mode during this outbreak. While distance learning is more material-based (readings, videos, exercises, etc.) and lacks personal interactions, blended learning is the thoughtful integration of face-to-face learning experiences in classroom with online learning” (Garrison and Kanuka 2004). According to UN reports, the global recession caused by this virus may bring many challenges to the higher education sector and may force a change in the higher education sector. Of all, the most significant challenge will be a change in students’ attitude towards the mode and preference of a particular course or program. This epidemic has amplified the cost-benefit trade-off, the uniqueness of the services offered by these luxury universities and the extremely low cost of online education provided through MOOC platforms, which are killing face-to-face university education.

In these troubled times, these posh universities can no longer rest on their laurels. According to the QS survey conducted in 2020 with more than 30,000 respondents on the subject “The impact of coronavirus on future international students”, around 65% of students have given up on the idea of ​​​​going abroad for studies. graduates and up to 60% chose an online degree. To add more, a large majority of respondents argued that fees should be reduced, reflecting the true value of the course. This epidemic has unveiled the true hallmark of distance learning, and due to its growing demand, availability of vast LMS platforms, budget advantages, and endless possibilities for future innovation, these online learning environments line are experiencing a perfect evolution. Do experts think this outbreak will leave an unanswered question “Is it better to go back to face-to-face learning or continue the status quo”?

Prior to the outbreak, the higher education sector relied heavily on conventional teaching methods and may continue to use the same model after this outbreak is over. However, futuristic and ambitious institutions can look to this opportunity as a launching pad for their new models of higher education. According to the QS report, in 2021, a few universities like Kaplan and the University of Arizona are opting for such a partnership where online and face-to-face learning could be mixed.

Experts believe that innovative technologies such as virtual manipulations, gamification, animations, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality can significantly improve learning outcomes and student success. These innovative learning management platforms will certainly make teaching and learning more efficient and optimize the time spent by professors with students. In fact, according to the QS 2021 report, many professors vouch for the use of innovative technologies such as Moodle, Blackboard and Canvas that have helped them inspire students to explore, connect ideas and develop skills of critical inquiry results in “cognitive presence” (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer 2000). However, nothing can replace a prolific educator, and no matter how advanced the technology, on-campus teaching/ residential is a very distinct experience and helps shape the future of young people and transforms them into responsible professionals.According to the UN, the blended learning model is likely to be the optimal and preferred concept in the future.

The imprint of the current situation has left a profound impact on the higher education sector around the world and forces them to question their traditional operating models, their old strategies and pushes them to evolve with a new face. Therefore, the higher education sector at this stage should galvanize itself to face these challenges and should focus on resilience, quality, relevance, content, agility, etc. These skills are not only crucial for 21st century students, but are also vital for the 21st century higher education sector.

Norma A. Roth