Author: Frances James
Site of publication: QS
Type of publication: Article
Date of publication: April 21st, 2020
1. The importance of online platforms
With students stranded all over the globe and the forced closures of university campuses, many institutions are moving their learning and teaching online.
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), such as iTeach.world, Moodle, and Blackboard, are digital spaces where teaching staff can upload resources, conduct virtual lessons, and track student performance.
According to the CEO of Perlego, an online library for educators, in just one week in mid-March they saw a “300% increase in approaches from higher education and further education institutions looking to move to learning online.”
This sudden increase in demand reflects the urgency felt by many universities to quickly get acquainted with the latest in online learning technology.
The university recently managed a “rapid deployment of educational technology products, like the video-conferencing platform Zoom and online course provider Coursera.”
They have now released a toolkit to help other universities transition to the online space.
There have been some universities who found the digitalization of their processes a little more challenging.
According to the CEO of Perlego, an online library for educators, in just one week in mid-March they saw a “300% increase in approaches from higher education and further education institutions looking to move to learning online
Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have encouraged universities to embrace online learning as a result of the coronavirus, despite many Arab countries previously rejecting it.
2. The value of international mobility and partnerships within higher education
Now, more than ever, the higher education industry is recognizing just how internationally interconnected the sector is.
As borders shut to reduce the spread of the virus, international students across the globe struggled to return home to their friends and families.
Many study–abroad programs have been cancelled or postponed. The University of Richmond in the US, where more than 65% of students have experience with international study, were forced to “cancel all university-sponsored international travel involving students over spring break.”
During this crisis, it’s vital that universities nurture their international connections, looking out for all members of the higher education community on a global scale.
Universities that still focus on their international partnerships and continue their relationship building during this time might find the transition back to normal operations a lot smoother.
3. The role nature can play in the higher education experience
Much of the advice we receive about working effectively from home involves taking regular breaks, with a proportion of these breaks best spent in the outdoors.
As many staff and students across the globe are currently in isolation, access to the outdoors during work and study days are now limited.
To many, this has been a catalyst for a new sense of appreciation for time spent outdoors and our connection with nature, which may not have been as valued before the restrictions were put in place.
For staff and students who have to work and study indoors, it’s important to remember the link between productivity and nature.
This sudden increase in demand reflects the urgency felt by many universities to quickly get acquainted with the latest in online learning technology
Studies have shown that, “because nature captures our attention without requiring us to focus on it, looking at natural environments lets us replenish our stores of attention control.”
Sunlight can also have a significant impact on our ability to work effectively.
According to Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, “the sun works through a number of receptors in the brain to affect our mental status and alertness.“
4. The value of community
By definition, self-isolation means staying indoors and completely avoiding physical contact with other people.
During the coronavirus crisis, many people in the higher education sector will be isolating; away from friends, colleagues, and other members of the higher education community.
However, studies repeatedly show that spending time with others is tied to being happier.
The World Value Survey asked respondents hundreds of questions about their lives and found that, “in almost all countries, people who often spend time with their friends report to be happier than those who spend less time with friends.”
Seminars, socializing with friends, attending lectures, or staff meetings are all events in the university experience that involve valuable human connection.
The social distancing restrictions currently in place in many countries across the world have reminded people of the importance of these everyday scenarios and experiences.
It’s important that your institution maintains regular communication with its staff and students during this time; updating them on the status of the situation and encouraging them to utilize digital platforms that will enable human connection.
5. The importance of having up-to-date technology
The coronavirus outbreak is likely to have disrupted several processes at your institution.
Various application deadlines will have to be pushed back, staff shifts and pay may temporarily change, and university-led events are cancelled.
While these changes may be difficult to manage, utilizing out-dated technology at your institution will make the entire process much more challenging for your university’s administration staff.
It’s important to regularly review and update the technology your institution relies upon, as this will help your institution to respond more efficiently in the event of a crisis.
Utilizing up-to-date and efficient technology will help to reduce the negative impact to your institution when university processes, such as recruitment and admissions, are disrupted.
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