Just about every industry has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic, including higher education. As stay-at-home orders spread across the nation, campuses were forced to close and schools began to hold classes online for the rest of the semester—and possibly beyond.
There have been huge financial implications for both schools and students, and many are calling the pandemic a wakeup call for higher education’s sustainability. With that in mind, how can we expect higher ed to change after it is safe to reopen? We don’t know for sure, of course, but we can make a few predictions.
Industry Leaders Predict an Increase in Blended Learning
Even prior to the pandemic, some students appreciated the convenience and accessibility of online universities. This model works very well for some, but it requires a different approach from schools in order to make it effective.
For schools that focus on in-person instruction, however, the shift to a fully online model may not be the best course of action. Instead, we can probably expect to see more schools adopt the “blended learning” model, where tools like Blackboard and Zoom are used to complement classroom learning.
Expect Changes in Education Policy As New Leaders Enter the Field
Because the pandemic has brought weaknesses within the higher education system underneath the spotlight, one of the positive changes that is likely to come out of the COVID-19 crisis is a revolution in educational policy. People who are upset by how students have fared as colleges struggle for survival might consider getting into the field of education policy to innovate and improve the system overall.
We need new leaders with fresh ideas to make sweeping changes that benefit students. However, it could take a while for these changes to occur, as those who are moved to enter the field must earn a Master’s in education policy or a related field.
Will Recession Scare Potential Students Away From College?
Some young people have been questioning the relative value of college in the last few years as costs have soared. Now, those questions might be even more pressing with high rates of unemployment. After all, it’s a risky move to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree when there might be no jobs available to you after graduation.
Although a college education has value beyond just landing a job, prospective students need to think carefully about whether or not it makes sense for them to attend, based on their own financial situation. There are lots of factors to think about, and many students are likely to take the online route for its flexibility or skip college altogether in the coming years.
Will Financial Pressure Turn Higher Education Towards a Corporate Business Model?
In a matter of weeks, the higher education system changed completely. That abrupt shift will have lasting implications and may force an even greater shift in the next few years. Many people are pushing for an end to the traditional four-year degree and the beginning of something more flexible, reducing the overall cost of college but also creating a structure that mimics corporate business models.
This model would encourage lifelong learning and tackle the rising costs of college that are keeping many young Americans from affording higher education. But it would also need to involve a way for employers to verify skills that are important for candidates to do their jobs properly, should four-year degrees become a thing of the past. The good news is that there may be a way to accomplish this: with blockchain technology, which could give employers a tool for checking credentials without fear of falsification.
One Thing’s Certain: Higher Education Will Always Be Important
With some universities doomed to close or merge after the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to be pessimistic about the future of higher education. But it’s important to remember that learning is part of our DNA: we’re naturally curious and we crave knowledge.
Higher education is crucial for training our workforce and for building young minds. As we look to the future, we can try to use this pandemic as an opportunity: the opportunity to make things better, cheaper, and more sustainable.
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.