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How COVID-19 is Forcing Higher Education to Change its Remote Learning Capabilities for the Better

COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of our lives and has forced us to adapt in a myriad of ways, from having to wear a mask to maintaining a safe distance from friends and family. It has also fundamentally altered how we conduct ourselves professionally, in our businesses, and how our students receive their education.

When the storm of COVID-19 first made landfall, universities shifted to remote learning in order for students to continue their education in a safe manner. In other words, the pandemic necessitated the schools to finally utilize available education technology in order to survive, as the old fashioned methods could not cope with the novel demands of COVID-19.

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It was a grand experiment, unplanned and unprecedented. That experiment has yielded many results, some surprising and others that may seem quite obvious now. One lesson that has been learned is that our system of education has survived thanks to the digital tools at our disposal.

For that reason, it becomes imperative that our many universities and hard-working teachers continue to adopt and utilize digital learning tools. Besides this, they have to help their students access these tools to ensure that they are educated in a world forever changed by the pandemic and currently dominated by its uncertainties.

What is happening now?

Universities have adapted to COVID-19 as they have reopened this fall, instituting staggered classes, consistent testing, mandatory distance measures, and even going completely virtual. But as the pandemic continues unabated, universities must continue to focus on shifting education online in order to survive.

To successfully adapt to remote learning, they needed to ensure that students can follow their classes online and professors need to make themselves readily accessible for remote check-ins and office hours. And, pushing the universities into an all-encompassing virtual education will surely reap benefits for the entire system of higher education in the years to come, because it will dovetail with the behavior of the students, who are always and constantly adapting and using the newest technologies.

StuDocu’s World University Ranking found US students rank their universities with an average of 8.4 out of 10 in the category of remote learning. The University of South Florida was the best in the category of remote learning, which means the students at this university believe it offers sufficient facilities for them to follow classes online and easily contact their professors remotely. While professors and universities are learning to adapt, the lessons that they are acquiring through this grand experiment will pave the way for better education in the future.

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For example, professors countrywide are now experimenting with developing their online coursework, and the methods they learn which prove to be useful and effective now can eventually be scaled up and enhanced later. Professors are also having difficulties with recording their long lectures, however they will be able to use these recordings for years to come. These recordings will benefit students because they allow them to directly refer back to their professors. In other words, the recordings will have enduring value like traditional textbooks have now. These recordings also afford students the ability to study wherever they want, whenever they want.

In addition to recorded lectures from professors, students’ own shared resources such as notes and collaborative study guides will be valuable education materials in the age of remote learning – a time when face-to-face study groups and late-night study sessions in person at the university library are no longer possible.

So, what’s next for education?

Universities and educators are certainly trying to adapt to the new normal induced by the pandemic, but in order to truly evolve the system of education, they are going to have to listen and follow the needs and desires of their students.

Ultimately, universities and institutions must shift, invest in, and collaborate with existing and developing education technology because that is where their students are learning already.  Collaboration between ed-tech and educators could mitigate many of the issues that arise when study and education are remote. Educators can upload their lecture notes on an ed-tech platform, allowing students to study directly from that, which would facilitate students’ learning while they are remote.

The shift to remote learning and teaching will allow professors to be more efficient with their time and effort. They will be able to better identify the areas in which students need more guidance, and the students will benefit from the new online resources that are being created by professors – materials that are being shared by students on platforms such as StuDocu –  and receive more time and focused attention from their professors.

Key takeaways from COVID-19 

It is great to see educators and institutions of higher education begin to make use of the modern technologies available for education, regardless of whether this adoption was forced by COVID-19 or not. It is refreshing to witness these traditional and entrenched education systems finally start modernizing.

In the end, a person’s education is essentially the preparation for their career, and the system of education and the remote learning it offers should also reflect that. Ultimately, the students are the ones constantly adapting to the newest technologies – and so are the companies they are studying to be able to work for. And as we have seen, the companies have adapted their work with the newest technologies as well, collaborating with various tech platforms to make sure they can survive and thrive.

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As such, our system of higher education will not lag behind. COVID-19 has made higher education more receptive and willing to continuously adapt to the newest technologies available, which in turn will better equip their students for joining a modern-day workforce.

And I am glad that this shift is finally happening.