Opinion: What universities will have to do to survive after the Covid-19 lockdown

Coronavirus outbreak

The author of the article Obilan Abubaker

By Obilan Abubakar

The reopening of academic institutions is still  on hold because of uncertainties precipitated by the continued lockdown and increasing number of covid-19 cases in Uganda. This means that Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) not only need to consider contingency measures in managing the covid-19 pandemic effects but also redesigning the entire teaching system for sustainable university education in the post-pandemic future.

African education systems still operate traditionally by largely confining students in the classroom and necessitating them to pursue institutional structures for, moreover, an enclosed system of learning to take place. Students studying a similar course in different universities have no platform to share and compare notes. This has sustained the obsolete business of selling knowledge and information rather than (selling) learning experiences, a differentiator among education providers, required to be the core business of the 21st century universities.

It is deplorable that, despite being in the 21st century, our education is still wired for 20th or pre 20th century society. No strategic studies to predict the status of the world education say in the next fifteen years, yet this should be the preoccupation of our education planners especially now and in post Covid-19 times.

Today, we witness a whirlwind sweeping across the world causing change in every sector of life, ushering new things while crushing others and breeding the three inter-connected facets of technology, scientific inquiry, and better understanding of human potential in convergence to a tipping point for exponential and uncontrollable change. Consequently, we now live in an era of demystification where technology and internet are instrumental.

Some universities have indefinitely suspended contracts or payments of their staff citing institutional economic stress. After re-opening, it may be impossible for such universities to recover in the short run.

However, for efficient recovery and improvement in their operations, universities should use this break for institutional reality checks, restructuring, revisiting their expenditures and strategizing on broadening revenue base through investment in suitable businesses in lieu of increasing tuition.

More importantly, adoption of modular study system buttressed by online study support services drastically dwindles the standard 45 contact hours to about 15, hence potentially cutting more than 50 per cent of teaching expenses.

Institutions indeed need to consider adopting edu-tech media and bring it to the mainstream domain. These are the flexible ICT resources, tools, and applications such as customized Moodle, Okmind, hologram and telemedicine. These indeed bolster collaborative online learning, the trend that holds the future of education.

An integrated approach between faceto-face and distance learning (module based) through the use of electronic tools while incorporating additional facilities for regular interaction between students and instructors is the way to go.

Also, use of discussion boards, chat rooms, and other interactive tools, bring all students into a virtual classroom carried out in a synchronous or asynchronous manner.

Due to the flexibility involved, students are able to learn more with less pressure – a convenient approach more likely to improve satisfaction and cost effectiveness, since the cost of physical infrastructure is considerably reduced. This requires that ICT research and innovation ecosystem be, with very specific emphasis, boosted in order to facilitate development and proliferation of contextual internet content for local and global consumption.

The Ministry of education and Sports; and National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) should hence, sanction the espousal of modular system and online learning support services in Higher Learning Institutions across the country.

Consequently, Uganda Vice Chancellors’ Forum (UVCF) and all education stakeholders should resolutely advocate for education stimulus package, in terms of subsidized upgraded internet connection to academic institutions and other edu-tech equipment, to facilitate a new technology driven beginning for university education in Uganda.

Obilan Abubakar

The writer is a PhD in education Fellow in IUIU umarsunge.1932@gmail.com 

 

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