Emerging Pedagogies : Sustaining Global Education In The Face Of Covid-19
Take some time and guess which sector has incurred the maximum losses, both moral and financial, during the pandemic. It does not take much time to realize that the lucrative industry of education has taken one of the biggest blows. Universities all across the globe have immensely suffered on the economic, moral, and social fronts. Plummeting international students’ intake, reforming teaching strategies, and severe financial crisis, Covid-19 has rendered this sector deficient.
But the truth is, “You will either step forward into growth, or you will step backwards into safety” -Abraham Maslow. A time came when all the teachings going in the world shifted online; now, it is the time to reinforce education strategies and meet the future. Here we look into the conditions of some of the most popular universities in the world and the strategies adopted by them to continue the post-pandemic learning.
The Response Of Leading Universities Around The World:
For countries like the US, UK, Australia, and China, where the educational industry accounts for lump-sum revenue collection, contemporary situations are horrible.
UNIVERSITIES IN THE US:
The educational scenario in the United States traverses upheavals as the government keeps pressurizing the institutions to open.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology:
Aligning with Governor Baker’s plan for the phased re-opening of the state, the university, and individual Schools and Units, are developing plans to gradually bring students, faculty, other academic personnel, and staff back to campus as conditions allow.
According to their official sites, for the fall semester, a grading system with extra flexibility will be in effect. The key feature is that for undergraduate and graduate subjects, the grades awarded include A, B, C, D/NE, and F/NE, where NE indicates that no record will appear on the external transcript. First-year undergraduate students will be graded on the regular P/NR basis for all subjects in the fall semester.
The tactics being used to begin post-pandemic learning are promising and account for the university’s reputation. The autumn semester would start from September 14, 2020. It has been proposed to substitute final exams with continuous assessments, including several take-home assignments. Classes have been recommended to start from morning 8:30 till evening to maximize the number of in-person lectures. A time of 30 mins could be availed between consecutive classes to change classrooms safely.
Synchronous and asynchronous learning would take place simultaneously, keeping in mind the burden on on-campus students as they would be taking part in blended learning. Laboratory sessions, which generally last for 3-4 hrs, would be accomplished using multiple class blocks of, say, 60 or 80 mins.
The university plans to admit first-year students to their rooms on campus in the week of August 24. Sophomores are supposed to return to campus in the spring semester (most likely beginning January 2021).
It is interesting to note that sophomores may not study on campus in the fall semester of 2020, and the freshers will not be on-campus in the Spring semester, but both are encouraged to enrol remotely.
UNIVERSITIES IN EUROPE:
The universities are expecting lesser students. For the “already under sourced” universities like the Irish ones, the overall revenue loss is estimated to be 300 million Euros. They are not alone; Romania, Slovakia, and Czech had also reduced their higher education funding for years. On the contrary, countries like Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Norway have significantly increased their funding budgets.
Above all of them, UK universities stand in a position where a dozen of them require a big government bailout to sustain. They would collectively face a shortfall of at least £2.5 billion in the next year. The crisis has exposed the flaws in the UK’s high-tuition fee model, said Steven Jones, professor of higher education at Manchester University. Nevertheless, the universities in Europe have buckled up to open the institutes while pioneering the online cum mask-to-mask teaching, which we call blended learning.
97% of the universities surveyed said they would provide some in-person education to students at the start of term this year, while 87% are planning to provide in-person sporting, fitness and wellbeing activities in the autumn. – source credit: www.studyinuk.com
Imperial College London:
The university has set its guidelines for the forthcoming semesters saying that lectures would be delivered in multi-mode, i.e., an amalgam of on-campus and remote learning.
As per to the official release, the institute looks forward to welcoming students to campus for the start of the Autumn term. For those who are unable to travel to campus for the Autumn term, there are plans to keep them from being disadvantaged. Some learning and assessment activities will be challenging to replace with a remote equivalent. In those cases, they will be moved with minimal disruption to a later date in the program. Ensuring social distancing guidelines, students would be provided ample research and growth opportunities.
University of Cambridge:
Cambridge is ready to start the new session inclusively with all the students. However, particular guidelines have been set for those who will not be appearing in-person owing to adverse conditions.
The academic year will start as normal, and the term dates haven’t been changed. Teaching would be hybrid. Of course, the balance of the blend would depend on the contemporary government’s regulations over time. Lectures would be delivered online and recorded, whereas practicals, seminars, and supervisions would be offered in person.
All assessments during the Easter Term would be carried out remotely and will replace the usual examinations in Cambridge. For those unable to take their assessment during Easter Term, there will be a second assessment period when the University is fully operational.
University of Zurich:
Again, semester courses at UZH will be a blend of online and classroom sessions. Teaching materials would be made available online. Classes focusing on practical skills (lab courses, clinical courses, etc.) can, in principle, be held as on-site teaching sessions. If the applicable social distancing rules cannot be observed, special protective measures (e.g., face masks) will be taken.
The official release from the institute states preparation is such that courses could all over be moved online if the condition worsens in the future. Digital assessments are available to be implemented.
This shows that apart from the financial catastrophe, the universities look in excellent shape to proceed and meet the future of education. Blending online and in-person teaching, digital assessments, and availability of synchronous and asynchronous learning is commendable.
UNIVERSITIES IN AUSTRALIA:
Despite the adverse situations, the top universities have buckled up with plans to reopen the institutes.
University of Melbourne:
The university planned a phased, partial return to campus, which has already begun and will continue over the coming months in line with Victorian Government advice. The outline of the phased reopening is still under probation, being reviewed with the latest restrictions in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
In Semester 2, most of the study will continue to go online, and some students may attend campus for practical and specialist classes. Even though a return to campus plan has been developed, the institute does not want them spending time on campus, or commuting to campus, unless needed absolutely.
University of Sydney:
Semester 2 will start on 24 August. It will combine face-to-face with remote learning in as many courses as possible while keeping the safety of the community and public health guidelines in mind. Arrangements of remote learning have been made for students who are not yet able to join in person due to travel restrictions. While most lectures will remain online, the seminars, tutorials, workshops, small group projects, practicals, and labs will hopefully return face-to-face in semester 2.
University of Queensland:
Again, the teaching would be predominantly online as stated in the official website. Face-to-face for activities that cannot be delivered in any other way and are necessary for student academic progression is postponed. Face-to-face education and support will resume for Semester 2, where possible. Online delivery to continue. An uplift in student work-integrated learning and work experience would be done where possible.
Here we can infer that colleges are more inclined to online teaching. Since a large intake of international students would not be there, universities are cutting costs and reducing their workforces. The situation is not as bad as the UK universities demanding bailout. Still, private universities that depend entirely on earnings by international students will suffer significantly. A reform package by the government would work.
UNIVERSITIES IN ASIA:
National University of Singapore:
In light of the novel coronavirus pneumonia (Covid-19), NUS has adjusted its regular line-up of seminar and workshop sessions and opened additional face-to-face workshops and online webinars to provide meaningful online teaching and learning experiences. Most of the online teaching would be on MS-Teams, viewing lectures, and completing e-quizzes. Endeavours are made to implement blended learning or develop flipped classrooms.
It seems clear that global universities have devised brand-new approaches to sustain. The decisions taken depend on the contemporary social scenario and the government’s guidelines.
THE PLIGHT OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS:
With most of the leading countries struggling to recover from this pandemic, the many international students studying worldwide face a different set of challenges. Most travel restrictions between countries are still in place and, in general, travel in these times, present health risks. In these situations, international students find themselves stuck abroad, unable to return home. With no end to the crisis in sight, the financial plight is one of the significant worries of these students. Generally, many international students take on part-time jobs to help with their tuition fees and living expenses. Now that everything is shut down, this extended stay abroad is becoming a financial burden on the students. Even the international students who have reached back home are not rid of trouble. The difference in time-zones and lack of internet facilities causing hindrance to their online classes are the least of their worries.
A leading university such as Harvard has decided on starting the next semester entirely online, both for students in and out of the campus, but the tuition fees being charged are the same as last year. This has come under heavy criticism. Students having to pay the complete annual fees (around $50,000) despite not using any on-campus facilities is questionable. This is being done by many universities and colleges around the world.
The Indian Scenario:
The increasing number of positive cases in our country makes it impossible to call the students on campus. The only tangible solution is to switch to online teaching entirely.
IIT Bombay became the first institute in the country to announce a fully online semester since the directive body took no interest to sit and watch for the conditions to alleviate. Following which, IIT Delhi did the same, and now one after another, college is starting the semester online.
India has all the potential to overcome the situation and meet the future of academics, but some fundamental problems pose obstacles. What we are facing this year was utterly unprecedented, and nobody was prepared for it. Although for the beginning period of this lockdown, the whole education process was at a standstill, eventually, everything has started to move to online platforms.
Steps have been taken, but some without proper management.
PROBLEMS AT HAND:
KEAM: Kerala Engineering Architecture And Management Entrance Exam
One of the most notable obstacles has happened in the process of conducting examinations. JEE and NEET exams, arguably the most significant examinations conducted in India in terms of both magnitude and importance, have been jeopardized. Both these exams have been postponed for the second time and are to be held in September. With the COVID situation spiralling out of control in India, conducting these exams would put the lives of students at stake.
This sudden shift has affected not only the students but also the teachers. Most of them are used to a more traditional system of teaching and are not as tech-savvy as the current generation. Comparing face-to-face learning with online learning brings forth significant deficiencies in the online mode, such as lack of human connection, absence of opportunities of collaborative learning, teacher supervision, and the most glaring being lack of opportunities for hands-on learning in complicated subjects such as science and mathematics.
The Way Forward:
In this post-COVID world, the traditional techniques of education need to give way for more advanced methods. Worth mentioning that the new National Education Policy (NEP) has brought in reforms to ensure that distance learning is at par with the highest quality in-class programs. This is a step in the right direction. UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), in one of its nine ideas for public action in response to COVID-19 pandemic, has stated that free and open source technologies should be made available to teachers and students. Open educational resources and open access digital tools must be supported.
The Indian government has also given the much-awaited green-signal for a 100% degree out of an online course, which was earlier restricted to only 20%. Top 100 colleges in the National Institutional Ranking Framework of the country can provide a degree entirely based on online teachings.
Since the mode of operation will be digital, steps must be taken to make facilities, like quality internet and electronic devices, available to everyone. The fundamental right to education cannot be violated.
The next important thing must be to equip the teachers to adjust to this change. They have to be trained for online teaching as well. This will go a long way to ensure that they are comfortable with technology and can switch between online and offline modes of teaching the curriculum seamlessly. With information readily available just a click away, the role of a teacher from that of a 'knowledge-giver' should move to one of a 'facilitator' in the development of students.
The current scenario is such that many students would be hesitant to opt for foreign universities. Indian universities should take proactive steps now to become an attractive and viable option for the student who may choose them over an overseas option. Universities can provide an international experience through short-term foreign visits by students and faculty, online collaborations, electronically enabled sharing of libraries and archives, team-taught courses via digital collaborations, webinars straddling multiple time zones, and various other measures. The various reforms made by the NEP to give education a new holistic approach will go a long way in ensuring that students stay back rather than going abroad.
The one obvious thing is that the world would not be the same post-COVID. We need to be ready to accept these changes and move ahead. Blended learning is the future, and “ the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” (Mark Twain)