The environment in which institutions of higher learning operate in is dynamic. Those that are not quick to adapt will find it difficult to operate effectively and efficiently. Bureaucracy and ruling from the ivory tower will not work in the 21st century. One of the key challenges facing universities today is digitalization.
Most universities were forced to switch to online teaching and learning due to the covid 19 pandemic. Teaching staff and students adapted though the universities were not very well prepared. Thanks to Covid 19 pandemic for accelerating online learning in our institutions of higher learning. It simply woke up the sleeping institutions of higher learning.
Many international higher education institutions have always had online platforms available for learning even though most teaching staff prefer face-to-face mode of learning. Kenyan institutions of higher learning predominantly use the face-to-face mode of learning. During the covid 19 pandemic most institutions of higher learning initially closed down and it was after some time that they started online learning. This clearly shows how ill-prepared the institutions of higher learning were. In fact, most were forced by circumstances and there was resistance from both teaching staff and students. I remember one specific student kept writing over 20 times every hour on a WhatsApp group I was in that online learning is a scam and they must have been truly depressed about it.
The question is whether universities should continue with online learning or not. In my view, online learning is here to stay and I dare say that the future of education is digital. Universities must have a digital strategy for effective online learning. They must invest in hardware, software, and training for effective delivery. There must be a way to ensure quality is not compromised and students get value for their money. The teaching staff must be trained on the new pedagogies to enable them to deliver in the online space. This means that online learning is not something universities should do for the sake of it. It requires serious planning and investment.
What universities must do in my view is to make a decision on what will be taught online and what should remain face to face. There is a need for universities to remunerate the teaching staff well for from experience teaching online is much harder than teaching face to face. Universities must stop taking online teaching as a cost-cutting activity because it is not and will never be. They must begin to see online learning as a strategic choice for growth. With a lack of infrastructure to manage large classes, the online option becomes suitable.
The universities must however be aware of the challenges of online learning. The majority of the students especially in public universities are from poor backgrounds and cannot access the digital hardware and data connectivity. Universities must consider students who come from areas with no or poor connectivity as they make decisions on the future of online learning. There is also the social aspect where students would like to mingle since at times online learning makes one feel isolated. I remember students telling me that at home it is difficult to concentrate and one may be doing other chores during class time. All these and many other issues must be considered as institutions craft their digital strategy.
Online learning will allow students to learn from anywhere and can be taught by experts from all over the world. There is also the possibility of inviting guest lecturers and industry players to share their experiences with students enriching the programs. With online learning, there is flexibility, convenience and requires self-discipline. However, it requires efficient time management skills both from the teacher and the learner.
I am certain for the last two years all institutions of higher learning have made use of online learning. What are your experiences as teaching staff, student, or guardian? What is your view on the continuation of online learning post covid? Should online learning continue or not? Leave a comment
Dr. Mary Mugo
Strategy, Governance and Management Consultant