Covid-19 Impact on Higher Education Institutions

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested and challenged Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans of many organizations. Whilst some argued that the pandemic is not a direct disaster to the organization, the lockdown is a direct business continuity problem. The organization’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP) include provision on how business continue operations from remote sites; in this case working from home.

The response to the current pandemic has highlighted the power of IT as an enabler and a facilitator in the delivery of higher education. Whilst it will be improbable to consider IT as a strategic tool at this point, it is undoubtedly an enabler of strategic goals and a facilitator in implementation of emanating strategic plans.

The current response by predominately contact (face-to-face) based higher education institutions have been rather remarkable and commendable. Contact based universities have used IT as a facilitator to respond to the lockdown and provided remote online access to effect teaching and learning.

University of Kwazulu-Natal’s Response

University of Kwazulu-Natal (UKZN) has responded commendably and almost ready to commence its remote and online teaching and learning soon; hopefully from the 4th of May 2020. As the process is new to UKZN, it is expected to be a learning process that will keep improving throughout the journey.

UKZN Strategic Goals (USG)

The UKZN inspiring greatness strategy has four key goals with four enablers. The attainment of the goals fulfils the legislated mandate of the university, being; to provide higher education fairly, without discrimination, confer degrees, honorary degrees, award diplomas and certificates. The four identified enablers provide the needed environment for effective and efficient operations to successfully achieve the goals and hence, the mandate.

UKZN Post Covid-19

Unless the enacting legislation changes, UKZN will continue to pursue its legislated mandate and strive to achieve its strategic goals. Following the experience from its response to the lockdown, UKZN will have to review and evaluate its enablers.

The way the university provide education, confer degrees, honorary degrees, award diplomas and certificates is been obviously challenged. The paradigm of a face-to-face (contact) mode of delivery has proven inadequate during a period of disruption of the mod

IT/ICT as an Enabler

The role and impact of ICT during the lockdown presents a compelling case for the review and evaluation of the current position of ICT within the university. Following the persistent need for a paradigm shift in the mode of delivery of teaching and learning, a paradigm shift eminently will effect changes in the mode of delivery. ICT is a proven paramount enabler of the mode of delivery.

The role of ICT as an enabler will necessitate a repositioning of ICT within the university. The position of ICT cuts across the university and therefore cannot be considered as an infrastructure. ICT infrastructure is just one component of ICT. Thus considering ICT as an enabler requires a complete assessment of all the key components of ICT and the required capacity and capability to effect the strategic goals.

Beyond Remote Teaching and Learning

Beyond remote teaching and learning, ICT will enable full online mode, blended mode, e-learning and possible support distance-learning models. The fulfillment of this will transformation and significantly extend achievement of UKZN’s mandate as an institution of higher education.

ICT as an enabler will bring to the fore issues of ICT architecture, capacity, capability, quality, DRP/DCP, and governance. It is therefore important to consider the repositioning of ICT and these related issues in parallel with the current pandemic response plans.

The pandemic has created a window of opportunity for the university to expand its market through expanding its delivery mode, quality and types of degrees, diplomas and certificates. ICT is the enabler of this opportunity.

Dr Sonny Ako-Nai

Dr Sonny Ako-Nai

Dr Sonny Ako-Nai is a lecturer in IT Project Management, Requirement Analysis, Infrastructure Management and Systems Analysis at the School of Management, Information Technology (SMIG).

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