COVID-19 has radically changed the shape of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) worldwide. ‘Diminished high-level research funding and fewer face-to-face conferences and collaboration – these are some of the potential consequences from the coronavirus pandemic as it affects higher education in Africa’ (Naidu, 2020).
An international webinar hosted by Allenhouse Colleges, Kanpur, India, on the Impact of COVID-19 on the Education Sector across the Globe, and the way forward proved that, in these unprecedented times, technology can bring the world together to engage on current issues and foster collaboration. The panellists hailed from six countries. Dr William Painter, Dean at Westford Education Group, United Kingdom highlighted the paradigm shift in the global education sector due to the impact of COVID-19; Dr Cameron A Batmanghlich, Full Professor of Leadership at Varna University of Management, Bulgaria and Founder and President of the Eurasian Doctoral Summer Academy engaged the audience on the shift in the learning model from on-campus to remote or blended learning, and the efficacy of learning in this model; Dr Mohammad Rishad Faridi, Coordinator, Faculty and Student Development, Assistant Professor, College of Business Administration, Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University, Al Kharj, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shared his insights on the role of emotional intelligence in online learning, the changing role of faculty and the impact on start-ups and employment prospects; Dr Pastor Reglos Arguelles Jr., Dean at the College of Computer Studies, University of Perpetual Help, Molino Campus, Philippines presented on the impact of COVID-19 on the behavioural aspects of facilitators, learners, and parents of learners; and Dr Vivek Mohan, Associate Dean at Exeed College, Sharjah, UAE shared his experiences as a migrant student and his views on how COVID-19 will encourage studying closer to home, as well as outlining opportunities and challenges to educational institutions due to changes in the pattern of student migration for education resulting fromCOVID-19.
Dr Upasana Gitanjali Singh, Sr Faculty (Information Systems and Technology), UKZN focused on the prospects of increased IT implementation and instructional design in education for continued learning, inadequate digital infrastructure in some countries, and the changes expected in the skill requirements of students in an online learning environment. She drew on her preliminary, unpublished research results from an international research project she is championing which focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on academics in HEIs. Singh explained that ‘…while the numbers may not equate since data collection is still in progress, the data shows that irrespective of economic state, developing and developed countries have experienced the same panic shift to online teaching and learning.’ She added that, it is becoming increasingly evident that academics in developed countries have more proficiency in adopting online teaching methods. The “panic” factor for them is thus slightly less. Singh added that the eight essential skills for students to develop for successful online learning are ‘persistence, effective time-management skills, effective and appropriate communication skills, basic technical skills, improved reading and writing skills, self-motivation and independence and a good study environment.’
The more than 220 participants included Vice-Chancellors of prominent international HEIs, academics, software company representatives and students from all over the world including India, the US, UAE, Bhutan, Philippines, Sweden, Botswana, Singapore, Malaysia and Nepal. The participants appreciated the dynamic engaging environment, despite being hosted virtually. The online polls, interactive online question and answer forum through the digital platform; and the enthusiastic moderator, Dr Bhagwan Jagwani, Director of Allenhouse Colleges, made the marathon three-hour session seem too short. In her closing remarks Singh stated that, ‘despite all the negative connotations associated with COVID-19, collaborative events like these illustrate the unifying nature of this pandemic.’ The webinar recording is available at https://www.facebook.com/allenhouse.superhouse