Education and COVID-19

 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the closing of classrooms all over the world and forced 1.5 billion students and 63 million educators to suddenly modify their face-to-face academic practices [1]. As of August 1st, is 2020, over 1 Billion students in 111 countries still faced school closures, and over 50 million students faced partially closed schools. At the height of the pandemic, 90% of all worldwide enrolled students in over 190 countries were affected [2].

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A survey of higher education’s immediate priorities in the USA, following the  COVID-19 pandemic, was conducted between April 6 and April 19 by Bay View Analytic [3]. In it, 826 administrators and faculty across 641 US institutions were surveyed. Virtually all institutions surveyed had to turn to some form of emergency distance learning and call upon faculty with no prior online teaching experience to quickly prepare themselves, their courses and their students. In fact, 97% of institutions reported using faculty with no prior eLearning teaching experience for some of their courses. This version of emergency online instruction is different from a pre-planned fully online course, and even experienced online instructors have had to adapt on the fly.

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Teaching techniques being used by faculty in emergency distance learning [3]

As evident in pre-COVID surveys, faculty usage of eLearning technology remains a challenge. The difference this time is that academic institutions felt the full effect and repercussions of providing sub-par education to their students.  According to EducationData.org by June 2020 parents of high-school grads started feeling that the costs for online tuition should not be as high as in-person classes [4]. Parents’ concerns included:

  • Poor content

  • Little collaborative learning

  • Inconsistent instruction

  • Little to no access to professors and teaching assistants

  • Poor instructor preparation

  • Limited technical knowledge by professors

These concerns translated to an average of 6-8% decline in Fall 2020 enrollment for undergraduate institutions, as of June 2020. By April 2020, universities concerns and priorities shifted dramatically:

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Immediate concerns of college and university presidents as of April 2, 2020 [4]

Worth noting is that at the height of the pandemic, as 98% of academic institutions suddenly transitioned to eLearning, college and university presidents were more confident in the existing technology than the ability of their professors to using it. As this analysis pointed out, the instructor’s engagement as well as the social aspect of learning are a determining factor in the effectiveness of eLearning and the satisfaction of the students enrolled in an eLearning course.


The winners in this situation are no doubt institutions who have already made significant investments in eLearning. As this analysis mentioned, almost half of eLearning students are accounted for in just 5% of institutions. This leaves the vast majority of academic institutions in a fight for there survival, assuming that COVID-19 has changed the education landscape in a permanent way.


According to strategy consultancy firm EY-Parthenon, the long terms created by COVID-19 on the education sector include long term enrollment effect and increased fee sensitivity [5]. A growth in online education is expected across the board, even after the pandemic subsides. However, the in-person aspect of the learning experience will continue to play an important part: physical campuses will still not be replaced by online learning.