The demands placed on lecturers and students by Covid-19 have been – and continue to be – unmatched. They both had to balance work life while teaching and learning in a largely unfamiliar way. However, in the course of the pandemic, students and teachers have redefined their roles in higher education.
According to the World Economic Forum, here are five changes made to higher education:
Technology for learning. The online learning environment existed predominantly as a virtual filing cabinet. The pandemic has highlighted what can be done with this online space. It can be engaging, enriching, and accessible. Videos and interactive media are now part of how students learn, and discussion boards allow for conversations to continue and ideas to be recorded outside classes.
Redefining engagement. Before the pandemic, engagement and attendance were often synonymous: a student’s participation in a course was measured by whether or not they turned up in person to lectures or classes. The interactions and discussions that students take part in online can say much more about engagement than simply showing up at a lecture.
Creative assessment. Traditional examinations have a focus on recalling information rather than exploring a topic. Assessments that are open-book – such as producing case studies, putting together policy briefing papers and recording podcasts – reward curiosity and academic inquiry.
Students as partners. Online learning requires significant commitment from students. Both students and lecturers have had to work together to achieve success. Students can co-design activities and assessments, making them active participants in their learning. Students can help shape the format of live activities, for instance, by giving regular feedback – something that is easier to carry out online.
Changing the formula. The sudden switch to online learning, with little warning or experience, has been difficult for many teachers and students. But, with time to plan, incorporating online teaching will allow lecturers to focus on what activities best suit the subject they are covering and design them to fit. Lectures can be replaced with peer instruction, where students assume the role of instructor and teach their peers, or virtual field trips that involve a virtual tour of a physical space.
Covid-19 has been a huge challenge for higher education, but universities can learn from this challenge to improve learning and teaching for the future.