There is no doubt that the COVID-19 Pandemic has been the greatest disruption for the education sector throughout history affecting more than 1.2 billion students in over 190 countries and leading to a sudden ubiquitous shift towards the use of online learning.
The pandemic has brought along much uncertainty and changes to the higher education sector that could be long-lasting and that may reshape higher education forever. It has acted as catalyst to faster and more impactful transformations within the sector; placing pressure on universities to re-visit their value proposition and re-invent themselves to ensure they remain agile and relevant to a very dynamic landscape. The pandemic has also demonstrated that no education system no matter how mature it may be is resilient to crisis.
Many have predicted that the “new normal” will encompass the emergence of new business models for the sector, wider investment in online learning and a greater adoption of technology. Pedagogy is projected to be more blended than ever; new ways of student engagement will continue to be explored and more creative assessment will be adopted.
Big data may become more crucial than ever to deliver a personalized student centric learning experience. The use of artificial intelligence and blockchain technology may witness a wider adoption. Universities will need to digitalise to survive while addressing aspects of accessibility and equity.
Moreover, the recent increase in unemployment rates caused by the pandemic accompanied with the recent decision of many large corporate organizations such as IBM, Ernest and Young, Google among others to prioritize skills over degrees, have implied an urgent need to rapidly skill, upskill and reskill the workforce, bringing in new challenges but also opportunities to the sector. The move to upskill and re-skill individuals for a dynamically changing economic environment has become integral to recovery and resilience strategies for a post-COVID world (Davidson, 2020). Universities and colleges will need to be forward thinking and liberal about their offerings, and evolve to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s economies and address significant post-COVID-19 challenges. Consequently, the need to harness digital transformation in ways that better equip individuals and institutions to respond to opportunities for further learning and differentiated employment is imperative.
Another important factor in shaping our future universities is a re-evaluation of their purpose and how they collaborate and engage both within and across the sector and how they serve their communities. We have witnessed during these critical times new forms of collaboration along stronger ties with the industry; which we universities may want to capitalize on in a more sustainable manner in the future.
Corona virus outbreak may also have impacted the world of work forever. Remote and hybrid ways of working and new faculty recruitment models may emerge as a common way for attracting and hiring talent in the sector.
Whereas the spread of COVID-19 has posed serious challenges to the global education systems; it has also fueled surprising innovation that could re-shape the sector forever. The disruption of the higher education sector has been prompting many universities to consider their best path to a sustainable future. What will that mean for their educational system and how will it affect the next student generation. As we continue to plan for the new normal, it is time for the Higher Education community both regionally and globally to seriously come together and think strategically about the lessons learnt from the crisis and the opportunities presented to positively transform the sector and reshape the educational ecosystem into an adaptable, flexible and relevant environment.