More flexible institutions: new planning for challenging contexts

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After the most uncertain semester in years, specialists know that the next academic year will never be like the previous ones. Higher Education Institutions face a great number of needs from governments, international organizations and the educational community. The risk of returning to the campus, the demand for courses that require face-to-face experience and the incorporation of new enrollees will be fundamental to the configuration of new planning.

For this purpose, a well-structured flexibility would make it possible to avoid possible time conflicts. Inside Higher Education proposes the model of an academic year of three semesters, extending over 52 weeks, so that faculty members and students can choose which ones work best for them.

Thus, a first semester would be completely online, and then, in the remaining two semesters would gradually return to the face-to-face mode. So that, by spring the administration can: modernize buildings, implement new public health technologies, store test kits and other supplies, develop policies for society, distance and train faculty members and staff on how to implement them.

Harvard will invite freshmen to live on campus this fall, while most other college students will have to learn remotely from home, the Ivy League announced.

The importance of simulations: an EdTech solution

The education journal’s plan eliminates risks of a semester where the pandemic could still be a threat to crowds of people. The campus population density would be reduced during the residency period and allow for elaborate social distancing practices, and enough time would have elapsed during the face-to-face semester to align the community with practices consistent with public health recommendations.

In this environment of constant change, the interaction among the HEI has become more and more powerful, teachers exchange experiences of the online resources they have generated for their classes, best practices and trainings.

A study by the American Education Research Association looks at what universities have done during the COVID-19 pandemic, which we list below:

Online teaching tools and plans: The creation of support networks (RedPO) through a directory so that universities can implement them.

University closures: Bryan Alexander, EdTech consultant, conducted a census of those institutions that have closed or changed their mode of study.

Statements and library closures: The Library Journal has conducted a census of library closures due to the contingency.

Help changing online courses: The emergency instructional development Network has expert volunteers on instructional design to support teachers and adapt materials.

On the other hand, The Chronicle of Higher Education gathered data on how higher education institutions in the United States wil approach academic planning, the measures can be seen in this graph:

 

To plan it is necessary to know the realities of teachers and students that most impact the institution and begin to simulate considering the multiple options that have been generated: the face-to-face mode, distance and blended, and on the other hand the synchronous and asynchronous learning for the distance mode. For that, we will revise the advantages and disadvantages of these forms of teaching.

Advantages of the distance mode

  1. Reduced student transportation time
  2. Permanent arrangement of sections
  3. Self-management of time
  4. A model, which this year has generated more knowledge than in all history

Challenges of virtualization

  1. Lack of training
  2. Lack of student’s self-regulation
  3. Loss of peer interaction
  4. Work overload due to rapid implementation

Inside Higher Education highlights in its article a fundamental advantage of this new modality in conditions like the ones we are living:

“While online programs have often been considered inferior to “live” learning, for example, the impact of COVID-19 has forced us to reconsider. There is now a greater awareness of the opportunities offered by online learning, including its positive impact on universities’ carbon footprints”.

Conclusion: Learning from COVID-19

  1. The value of communication and
  2. The importance of reviewing teaching and learning
  3. Rethinking the measures of quality and value that formed the basis of the modern university
  4. Flexibility in planning focused on real

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