The Future of Higher Education Post-COVID-19
Mrs. Anuradha Patil

On May 5th, 2023, the World Health Organization revised its assessment of the coronavirus pandemic, stating that it is no longer considered a global emergency. It means that nations need to stop treating COVID-19 as an emergency and start handling it like any other infectious disease.

All of us were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that we still don’t fully understand. Many of these impacts could be seen and felt directly. However, it also had an impact on us in a number of intangible ways. It left our mental health with an unheard-of scar. Regardless of their nationalities, genders, social statuses, or religion, everyone was impacted by the pandemic. It also sheds light on a number of societal shortcomings and disparities, particularly in the areas of employment and education.

Our immediate response to this pandemic, lockdown, actually divided society. Some people supported it, but others felt they couldn’t afford it. Staying ‘locked down’ eventually ceased to be necessary and started to become a privilege. The education sector experienced strict compliance in India’s scheduled lockdown phases, from Lockdown 1.0 to Lockdown 5.0. Moreover, for clear reasons.

It makes sense that educational institutions would be seriously shut down because they serve as a breeding ground for the transmission of such infections. It lists 993 universities, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Serving almost 32 billion students. Who in India was compelled to remain inside during these lockdown periods? Their educational trajectory was significantly impacted and altered by this. The following list of factors illustrates how a pandemic’s effects might be seen collectively:

The Effects on Students: Lockdown was the main line of resistance against the COVID-19 pandemic. We were completely unfamiliar with the idea itself. This lockdown may have effects on various facets of life—especially the solitude it brought. Students were now required to stay put, even though they would often go out to see their buddies every day. Social networking has a good effect on students’ general personal development that cannot be understated. Many pupils felt isolated due to the lack of such social solid contact.

Over 53 per cent of Indian university students experience moderate to severe depression, according to a study that was published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry. Many pupils experienced future anxiety. Some people experienced confidence loss, and some even ended their very first partnerships. We cannot even begin to comprehend the assistance and support that our students will require to survive the pandemic.

Students are having a hard time adjusting to life after the pandemic. Many people currently feel helpless about the future they may have. Plans for students to study abroad were put on hold. Additionally, there were fewer opportunities for internships and hands-on training. During online lectures and evaluations, the student’s veracity was seriously questioned. Many teachers concurred that pupils were plying their way through online tests. This led to a situation that was disappointing for sincere pupils.

There was also the socioeconomic gap. Students had to have the fundamental digital learning infrastructure, including laptops, basic internet access, and software support, as universities had to transition to online learning. It was particularly challenging for students from rural areas to adjust to these developments. Education, and especially ‘Digital Education,’ turned into a privilege. The digital divide has gotten worse.

Instead, this method of distribution compelled college professors and students to adapt to the digital form of education, leading to a paradigm shift in the way that people teach and learn. Now that universities may reach more students abroad, enrolment and internationalization might rise.

The pandemic demonstrated that colleges could now deliver the same high-quality instruction they provide in person from the convenience of students’ homes. Universities are still affected by the pandemic. Thus, hybrid and blended learning strategies that mix traditional classroom instruction with online learning could be used.

Effects on Professors: The global pandemic upended the sense of routine we had established for ourselves. The educational system was unprepared for this and had to put its tried-and-true traditional practices to the test. Universities changed their educational delivery strategies, assessment procedures, and learning outcomes as a result of the epidemic, which forced them to be innovative and adapt to survive.

In order to keep students and staff safe, universities switched from traditional classroom learning to digital delivery methods, including online learning, hybrid learning, or blended learning. Universities have to modify their examination and evaluation procedures as a result of the pandemic.

The universities had to switch to online exams when COVID-19 started. Professors at universities who had never taught online switched to this distribution method. Survival of the fittest applied. The transition to online mode was challenging for the traditionalist. For some, it was extremely intrusive to believe that you cannot see your students, but they can see you.

Others, though, saw it as a chance to express themselves more creatively. Now, even the furthest-flung students could be reached. Universities are now seeking ways to fully utilise technology since it has become more important and prominent than ever before.

Furthermore, as more colleges switch to digital forms of learning and evaluation, technological usage is projected to rise. Universities could use cutting-edge technology like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), which are becoming more and more relevant daily, to instruct students and experiment with new teaching methods.

In conclusion, the pandemic tested both students and faculty, who are the two key stakeholders in the education sector. Even if there is still much to be determined, the Indian education industry set the bar for many emerging nations in terms of adjusting to the ‘New Normal.’

Many institutions have been taking steps to build a compassionate environment for their students, such as hiring a full-time counselor and setting up campaigns to raise awareness of mental health issues. They could undoubtedly do more, though. Institutions of higher learning must view mental health as a requirement for academic advancement.

The pandemic offered a chance to reevaluate conventional educational models and develop new transdisciplinary, long-lasting models that meet the changing demands of institutions. The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has undoubtedly created the conditions for such educational growth. It would be interesting to observe how universities and students create new paths.

About the Author

Anuradha Patil is a faculty at D Y Patil International University, Akurdi, Pune.

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