Will Coronavirus Pandemic Result in Educational Disruption Leading to Some Innovation?

  • According to the leading credit rating agency CRISIL, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will be seen across 35 corporate sectors, accounting for a total debt of Rs 23 lakh crore.
  • Around 15 sectors, with around Rs 10 lakh crore of rated debt, were classified as high resilience sectors and another 15 sectors, with Rs 12 lakh crore of rated debt, will have moderate resilience to the slowdown in economic activity in the coming weeks, the rating agency added..
  • The pandemic continues to expand. More than 175 countries and territories have reported cases of COVID-19. As per https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/, by the evening of 4 April 2020, there were 1,132,337 Corona virus cases, 60, 353 deaths and 235,992 recoveries globally. By the time you read this blog, numbers would have inflated further.
  • Some geographies have a handful of cases, others with early community transmission have a few hundred, and those with uncontrolled, widespread transmission have tens of thousands. Governments worldwide have launched unprecedented public-health and economic responses. The situation is evolving day by day.

The above mentioned situation is unprecedented for anyone of us. Across industry segments, people are discussing the long term impact of the corona virus pandemic on their businesses. Stakeholders of the Higher Education institutes these days are too contemplating on how various aspects of higher education are getting impacted by COVID-19.

The sudden stop experienced by businesses across segments ranging from airlines and automobiles to education and hospitality could result in another economic depression in times to come. This would eventually result in reducing manpower requirement of skilled workforce. Since higher education institutes are the main supplier of skilled job force to the industry, this is an important aftermath of disruption due to corona virus outbreak which they cannot afford to ignore.

The countrywide lockdown, announced by Prime Minister Modi on March 24, 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19, is set to end on April 14, 2020. However, it is anticipated that even after the lockdown is lifted many sectors will witness sluggish growth and could have a protracted impact on streamlining their operations.

Education sector too may have to defer several of its scheduled timelines such as application deadline, fee submission, course commencement etc. Some of its ancillary programmes such as foreign exchange, internship, corporate trainings, and seminars etc. could either get disrupted or extended further to next academic session.

Learnings for Academic Institutions from Corona Virus Crisis: How Can Universities and Institutes Transform in the Present Crisis

So, is Covid-19 really a big curse on all of us or could it be converted into an opportunity in disguise for universities and colleges to evolve. Are educational institutes prepared to deal with the emerging situation?

The answer to the first question is YES it can become a curse to repent later if not controlled with our collective efforts in preventing its widespread. And secondly, every crisis has inherent learnings too, only if we look at it that way.

A post-coronavirus recession could drive higher education institutes to spot the inherent opportunity to grow in present crisis through digital innovation in acquisition and delivery. The Covid-19 crisis means a huge upturn in online activity by the teaching and students fraternity. Most academic institutions will now have to think and act innovatively as people use more technology and swap to digital platforms. The current impact of covid-19 outbreak tends to be twofold; on life and livelihood.

Role of technology is going to be very crucial as a differentiating factor for beating competition in the segment. It will definitely help them to cope with the current disruption. Greater emphasis on Digital media will be a game changer in reaching out to students both current and prospective.

To give our youth a post-coronavirus future, our education system must be prepared to find solutions by upgrading the IT skills of its faculty and staff and improving infrastructure. It is also important that in the present corona times colleges and schools stay connected with their students and show empathy. Student motivation should be the top priority of colleges and schools.

Many educational experts assume that student numbers especially through foreign exchange programmes will be hit in response to the current problem. So while international student numbers may be sharply down, a greater proportion of enrolments in the domestic higher education market may upsurge since skill enhancement will be on priority among students.

For the same reason, many job seekers will also simultaneously upgrade their qualification by enrolling in online courses creating a good opportunity for higher education institutes to transform themselves in the online age. The end result of all this may be a more highly skilled workforce at the end of the current crisis. That would at least be seen as an opportunity by higher education sector to rise above the occasion.

Hence, there is a huge challenge ahead, as well as room for innovation. Challenge is to overcome disruption and scope for innovation to create regular engagement with students and other stakeholders. Challenge is also to keep the continuity of work uninterrupted and meet deadlines. Relationships with our students is of paramount importance and should be taken care well in the present situation.

At the same time, there is tremendous opportunity for institutes to look into the possible usages of technology for facilitating students’ engagement and interoffice working. Forming deeper relationships with peers and other stakeholders online will be key to success in the COVID-19 crisis.

The most technologically developed educational institutes will be preferred by students in future. This presents a huge learning curve for institutes to invest in technology. In the post corona world, platform based business models in higher education sector like Facebook, Airbnb and Uber etc. which are highly technologically advance will drive institutions forward. The ones having intensive preparedness to upscale and mobilize digital resources will be incentivised in the longer run.

From here, academic institutions should therefore be more curious to migrate and transform from traditional set ups to survive in a Platform economy.