”Every crisis seems epochal in the moment, when normal patterns of behavior are profoundly disrupted and normal patterns of policy are profoundly inadequate.” (Hans Brands, Peter Feaver, William Inboden, Covid-19 and World Order The Future of Conflict, Competition, and Cooperation)
The worldwide confusion and chaos unleased by COVID-19 has cast a bright light on the deep fissures not only among health protocols, economic inequality and international interdependence, but also on higher education’s inefficiencies and in some cases, antiquated educational delivery systems.
Pandemics are not the usual companions supporting higher education’s reverence for logic and reason. The dark alchemy of fear and uncertainty are walking the halls of many academic institutions worldwide. Viruses carry no passports and respect no borders. We are living in a world where norms are constantly unraveling around the edges.
Professor Steve Smith, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Exeter, put it best:
This crisis feels like no other. I honestly think it will change us, how we operate, teach, and do research forever.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines innovation as something new or different and entrepreneurship as managing an enterprise with considerable initiative and risk.
In the midst of its devastation, COVID-19 has also presented higher education officials with the opportunity to create new models for educational delivery in the future. At the intersection of disruption and unpredictability will emerge a new world order requiring a shift in perspective and thinking and demanding innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to higher education’s problems.
In his book, Thank You for Being Late, the New York Times columnist, Thomas Freedman quotes Lin Wells, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University, who describes three ways of looking at problems: inside a box, outside a box, or thinking “without a box.”
Now, more than ever, higher education needs innovators and entrepreneurs who as capable of doing what professor Wells suggests.
Impact of COVID-19 on higher education
It is with a cloudy lens that I predict the short-term and long-term impact of COVID-19 on higher education. The truth is we do not know for certain what the lasting residuals of the pandemic will be.
What we do know so far is that the pandemic has altered the way students are recruited, admitted, and enrolled, where and how students are taught, how and where faculty teach, and how classrooms are re-configured to insure the safety of students, faculty, and staff. We can predict with some certainty that blended learning will be part of a student’s educational experience as will be attending classes year-round.
The truth is we do not know for certain what the lasting residuals of the pandemic will be.
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