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“Much needed change if universities want to address the significant shortcomings exposed by Covid”

The rapid online migration of teaching and learning into higher education during Covid created massive turmoil in the industry, exposed some significant shortcomings, and forced what some believed was a much-needed change.

Prior to the start of Covid, teaching and learning in higher education had been taught in much the same way for over 100 years, using a combination of live lectures for large groups of students, seminars and tutorials. As the pandemic strengthened its grip and universities nationwide closed their doors in March 2020, huge upheavals and readjustments ensued with higher education institutions struggling to provide engaging teaching materials and online classes. Significant gaps emerged in relation to teaching, learning, inclusiveness and accessibility.

Universities have long been seen as huge beacons of research excellence in terms of human advancement of innovation, and rightly so, but now they must take on more responsibility to deliver inclusive and equitable teaching and learning experiences to all undergraduate students in a world. ‘wide range of backgrounds.

Invest in libraries and training librarians, who have traditionally been responsible for purchasing journals and academic content

Today, despite the lockdowns being lifted, in-person classes have not yet been fully restored by some universities who claim it is for health and safety reasons. Students also choose to watch the recorded lectures at their preferred time, rather than filling the auditorium and interacting with the teaching staff and their peers.

Hybrid learning, which combines online teaching materials and interaction with traditional in-person teaching, is definitely here to stay, so what can universities do to address the above issues and support both students and teaching staff? I think it’s important:

  • Improve the visibility and accessibility of academic staff by using digital tools to facilitate dialogue and maintain regular contact with students.
  • Engage with instructional designers skilled in the art of creating powerful and effective academic learning experiences to increase student engagement, update content and curricula, and support staff, who, in an effort to deliver regular classes, have made their way cautiously through uncharted territories.
  • Train and encourage teaching staff to engage more actively with their learning management systems and encourage students to use content, assessment materials, tools and audiovisual resources to better understand the concepts presented to them.
  • Focus on the college students’ “learning” experience, make sure everyone has an equal chance of success, and strengthen support for “all” students by providing them with free access to quality subscription-based content and tools, rather than expecting them to finance such resources.
  • Invest in libraries and the training of librarians – who have traditionally been responsible for purchasing journals and academic content – but who now need guidance on acquiring teaching and learning materials online.
  • Equip students with the 21st century skills they need to enhance their career options. Prepare them for employment by providing them with tutorials and resources to master the skills to excel at college, explore career options, develop employability skills, and successfully transition to the highly competitive global workplace.

Andrew Robinson is Vice President and General Manager of International Higher Education at Cengage Group.

“Much needed change if universities want to address the significant shortcomings exposed by Covid”

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