Monday, 31 August 2020

The future of universities

Covid-19 will change universities as we know them: Universities around the world have been hit with a pressing need to accelerate the pace of a digital shift that was already underway, but in an often fragmented and lackluster manner. Taken by surprise, they suddenly found themselves not only faced with a new reality but the inherent shortcomings and long-term challenges of higher education, says an article in Nature on how the once familiar scene of knowledge-seekers in a courtyard overlooking elaborate and lavish buildings could soon be an image from the past.

Pure online learning is often not the best way for a complete learning experience. This is because it’s often static, and doesn’t go a long way. It’s simply not great to just throw online content at students, MIT Vice President Sanjay Sarma says. We’re already at a time of unprecedented digital access and ‘more online’ isn’t necessarily the solution.

We need new concepts: When universities resume this fall, the hope is for a “radically different” experience, says Sarma. “It has to be two-way learning.” Video lectures and online course material will become an essential part of the process, with face-to-face interaction crowned as a way to ensure things are being understood and that students receive a “two-way” experience.

What the future might hold: In the long term, universities might find themselves sprinting toward the reality already underway. The reliance of some high-profile names on revenue streams from international students will be called into question if overseas learning becomes less common and institutions recalibrate towards the local population.

It could be time to give way for a new type of university: Tfahe untimely disturbance caused by the pandemic could actually be a great chance to “seize the day to consider the creation of … the ‘new global university,’” Jamal Eddine Benhayoun writes for University World News. This university is a model for the future that operates irrespective of a physical location, and has a global community of students and teachers.

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