Emerging Situation of Academic Institutions amidst COVID-19 and Recommendations to Deal with the Situation

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The increasing rate at which the recent Coronavirus outbreak is escalating in different parts of the country, has forced the central and state governments to shut down most of the services including educational institutions and schools. The step taken as a precautionary measure is going to result in the disruption of educational activities for a long period. It will defer ahead several ongoing educational processes such as summer internship, admissions, studies etc. for next few months.

While institutional leaders and academic experts are encouraging digital models to facilitate classroom teaching and drive operational activities, yet it is still to be see how effectively a nation that largely depends upon offline methods of imparting education can suddenly graduate to an online mode of operation in the current shutdown. Mass shutdown of schools and colleges is also on the cards in countries like Australia. In the US, Harvard and the University of Washington have already taken that path.

In lieu of the recent events on account of the pandemic, higher education institutions have started brainstorming on possible digital platforms and strategies to drive their academic activities forward. They are discussing on possible solutions at hand to move ahead.

Amidst COVID-19, lot of measures impacting Schools and Universities or Colleges have been taken by the state and union governments. For example, HRD ministry has issued advisory to postpone higher education exams. Assam Government has asked educational institutions not to organise morning assembly. Due to the emerging scenario out of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, students have been asked to take global exams such as TOEFL, GRE at home.

Similarly lot of management students whose summer internship were to begin from April 2020 will now be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Both institutions and the students are now exploring alternate options to bridge the gap.

Fallout of Corona Virus Pandemic on Education Sector

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is affecting educational sector worldwide, leading to mass closures of schools and universities.

“As of 28 March 2020, over 1.7 billion learners were out of school due to school closures in response to COVID-19. According to UNESCO monitoring, over 100 countries have implemented nationwide closures, impacting nearly 90% of the world’s student population. Source: online reports

Closures of schools and colleges not only impact students, teachers, and families, but have far-reaching economic and societal consequences. For example, education loan services may get affected. Access to auxiliary student services such as boarding and lodging will get disrupted.  

India still faces lack of access to technology. Closure of schools and colleges due to COVID-19 will prevent access to reliable education in rural areas and among disadvantaged families. This will be a big obstacle to continued learning, especially for students from the above mentioned areas and sections of the society.

However, use of digital learning tools wherever possible by educational set ups will certainly limit the disruption of educational services in many areas. To aid in slowing the impact of COVID-19 on studies, several institutes are providing access to online libraries to students to foster distance learning.

Colleges and universities across the country have been called upon to postpone public gathering functions such as Convocation ceremony etc.

Some Recommendations to break the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Educational Services

#1. Smart Use of Technology

In the present scenario, only technology can come to your rescue to limit the after effect of this deadly pandemic. Assess the technological readiness of your school or college and opt for the most relevant and reliable tools. Decide on the use education technology solutions based on your need and current infrastructure support both at the institutional as well as individual levels.

While implementing technology solutions, keep in mind the digital skills of your teachers and students. Technology solutions could range across integrated digital learning platforms, video lessons, MOOCs, to broadcasting through web conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom etc.

#2. Explore Distance Learning Mode

Distance learning strategies can facilitate uninterrupted teaching learning activities. Try to develop some distance learning modules for your students to ensure continued studies.

Prioritize your academic activities. If summer internship is the most effected in your college due to this outbreak, focus on providing alternative learning experiences to students in this emerging situation. Explore digital tools and simulations that can help substitute field training. Ensure regular online interactions with your students. Your communication with prospective applicants should address challenges that they may face in this situation of isolation and disruption.

Plan the study schedule of the distance learning programmes: Organize discussions with stakeholders to examine the possible fallout of lockdown due to COVID-19 outbreak so that appropriate corrective measures can be taken to tackle the problem. Decide on extension dates wherever applicable whether it is admissions or subsequent course commencement.

#3. Provide Support to Faculty and Staff through Regular Communication

Staff and Faculty are lifeline to any academic entity. In this situation of crisis, institutional leadership should support them. They should be supported and encouraged to use digital tools for engagement and interaction.

Organise brief meeting sessions at regular intervals to get the things going. Help faculty in using live streaming of lessons on platforms such as Zoom, Skype etc. This is the best time to promote blending learning techniques. Blend traditional and digital media to create new learning experiences for students.

Communicate regularly and create academic communities. Enhance connections to tackle loneliness and drudgery. Facilitate sharing of experiences and discussions on coping strategies in the present crisis.

What’s Next?

The corona virus pandemic is disrupting smooth functioning of colleges and universities globally. It has resulted in closure of campuses, disrupting study schedules, admission cycle, internship process etc. etc. thereby creating a challenging environment for everyone involved; be it students, parents, teachers or educational administrators.

But there is always a bright side to every adverse situation. The corona virus outbreak too can teach us lot many things. It has some valuable inherent learning for all of us if only we are ready to explore them.

At the moment it is helping academic institutions to learn more about using technology to support its working. Colleges and Universities are thinking through the challenges and opportunities inherent amidst the difficult times of lockdown such as online education or organizing online meetings or conducting live webinars. Global companies like Google are moving their summer internship program online

Business schools are introducing additional flexibility to their admissions process by extending dates of application, interview process or fee submission. Many colleges and universities have now migrated to rolling admissions due to disruptions in testing facilities. Educational institutes are well aware how stressful the current situation could be for students and their parents. Therefore in this times of unprecedented disruption, they need to work towards making their processes as flexible as possible.

In the wake of this emergency, educational institutions around the country will have to shift to online mediums of learning and conducting their day to day business. This disruption is one that no one ever anticipated. Therefore governments will have to provide extra bandwidth and support to institutes across the country to learn how to work online amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Online platforms thus could be the best tool to tackle this present unfortunate circumstance.

Time is ripe for Education technology companies to come up with innovative digital solutions for academia. These companies could well be the engines to drive the next change in educational landscape of our country.

In the light of these emerging trends amidst COVID-19, we believe the next cycle of growth in the education sector will be driven by these edutech companies. The best way going forward will be a mix of online and offline mediums of learning.

With the increasing infrastructure costs and growing regulatory framework for setting up offline channels of education, schools and colleges will slowly start complementing it with online mode. This will help the teachers to design personalised course content for students.

This trend will help schools and higher education institutions to overcome physical barriers in teaching learning. Furthermore, educational content will become more engaging and accessible. It will be worthwhile to see how educational institutions deal innovatively and smartly with the present lockdown. Only time will tell how academia will respond to the challenges of COVID-19 for giving a much-needed push to improve itself.

In the next blog we will discuss how various aspects of higher education are getting impacted by COVID-19. We will also see what strategies to adopt so that productivity of educational services does not get hampered.

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