In just a few months of its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up human civilization and upended the way it functioned.
As the days fly by, no business remains unaffected with Higher Education also in the aftermath of the hit. Rules of most of the businesses have changed and they begin with:
Return to the basics
Back to the basics have become the guiding principle and most markers of higher life have had to be given up or transformed drastically. One of the most important of these, one with far-reaching and longer-term impact, is tertiary or higher education.
Classrooms become a no-no
Person-to-person contact is ruled out and you are not even allowed to come closer than six feet to others in public spaces. So, classrooms are a no-no. Even getting to colleges is ruled out as public transport is off, and cities have been placed under ‘lockdown’. One did add a few such terms to vocabulary, but education has been affected severely.
Universities Shut Suddenly
Universities were shut down almost suddenly. As campuses closed, students were forced to vacate hostels. The foreign students, especially from a low-income background, have been hit hard. They depended on the hostel for their meals, healthcare, and other life necessities. Some used to take up work on campus or locally to support themselves, and all that was gone at one stroke. Getting back home became more difficult due to travel restrictions.
E-learning Becomes the Buzz word
Most universities have taken to distance education, launching remote classes, on the internet, for their students. E-learning, in short, is the buzz word. Libraries have gone online and opened up access to their resources to their clientele. This has its benefits and has a downside as well. Students can interact with professors and have their undivided attention. The presentations are made through online conferences. Professors offer all kinds of assistance such as assignment help, research paper help, and more to students.
A student sitting in Noida in India can attend an online course in Wellesley. The time difference is, however, a problem. It throws life out of gear, for one has to start at 9 or 10 p.m. and finish in the morning.
A ‘Class-Divide’ in Education
One side-effect of this is bringing in, if not accentuating, a ‘class divide’ in education. Such mode of instruction is possible for those possessing personal computers of good quality: at least 8 GB RAM, over 500 GB disc, and i5 or higher processor.
They also need to have access to decent broadband internet, with speeds like 100 MBPS. These are not very rare but are certainly not common even in India, which is considered among the more developed of the developing world.
Lack of Infrastructure
Many if not most of the students come back to a home that lacks facilities to continue their studies in the universities abroad. They do not fit here and, according to a study, 20 percent of first-degree students in the United States did not expect to return to the institution they left due to pandemic closures.
Opportunities of sorts
As an aside, one may point out that perhaps there is an opportunity of sorts there for countries and states lagging in educational infrastructure. They can set up hubs for students of foreign universities, providing high-grade computers and the internet and depute some of their teachers to run them. It would be a learning for both students and teachers and help improve local education standards.
The State of Catharsis is Persistent
At present, the entire system is in a state of cleansing, transition, and set to change in every fundamental way. Those already in it will face the brunt of this phase. Examinations – assessments – have either been put off or have undergone a complete change.
Those who graduate in this phase would have gone through major interruptions and changes in their education. When they step out, they will enter a world in recession, with fewer and probably newer jobs. With newer assessment models on universities, employers would not be sure of how to sort the candidates.
Things were going fine; everything was in order. Then, in a blink of an eye, everything changed, and universities worldwide are now responding to the Covid-19 outbreak. How the institutions and the individuals adapt – that will be the key to deciding who is the fittest to survive. The Darwinian theory will come to play in a different way, in a different setting.