Real Impact - Issue 2

UNIVERSITIES IN THE WAKE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

Campuses around the world have closed their doors and moved operations online to stop the spread of COVID-19. Whilst for many the change has been a success, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. We spoke to university faculty across the world to find out how the crisis is impacting their institutions and what this might mean in the long-run.

from women in the last month. Never seen anything like it ”. In response, many suggested that female academics were now juggling childcare and domestic responsibilities, preventing them from prioritising research. A new teaching model Looking ahead at the potential long-term impact of the pandemic on higher education and there is a widespread view that the shift to online education will be long-lasting. Leonard is of the opinion that education is witnessing a paradigm shift that is necessary to effectively serve the modern world. “At Lingnan, we plan to maintain online teaching and learning even after face-to-face classes are resumed,” he says. “We in higher education must accept the reality of a paradigm shift. In the new world of tertiary education, colleges and universities will need to develop the requisite technological infrastructure and expertise, raise faculty competence.” Farzad agrees that we will not go back to the education model pre-COVID-19. “I believe this will show itself as a paradigm shift in working cultures and universities will be more receptive of allowing staff to spend more time working from home,” he says. When considering the future impact of the crisis on higher education, Jeffrey notes that a permanent move to online education will require much more than a simple transfer of information. “There is more awareness that effective online instruction requires thorough design considerations and is more complicated than merely trying to replicate on-campus lecturing and testing,” he adds.

“There is more awareness that effective online instruction requires thorough design considerations and is more complicated than merely trying to replicate on-campus lecturing and testing” Jeffrey Alstete

Iona College, USA, has also been swift to help its community during lockdown. “Local communities were aided with tutoring services to elementary school children, donating supplies to medical facilities, and outreach to senior homes,” says Dr. Jeffrey, Alstete, Professor of Management at Iona College and Co-Editor of Emerald’s journal, Quality Assurance in Education . From his standpoint, universities must learn important lessons from the pandemic, particularly when it comes to their societal responsibilities: “The takeaways from this event include increased understanding about the importance of emergency preparedness to maintain continuity of service and the abilities that higher education expertise has to serve society,” he adds. Loss of income from foreign students As universities adjust to the initial impact of the crisis, attention is turning to the long-term implications that might result. A major concern is the potential loss of income from international students. A report by Moody’s Investors Service predicts a decline in enrolments in countries including the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. The report suggests that the US will be hardest hit, due to lower government funding but that the UK Government is less likely to cut university funding. The UK Government recently announced a support package that includes bringing forward £2.6 billion in tuition fees and £100 million in research funding. In the UK, Farzad underlines the sector’s apprehension over a likely fall in enrolment. “All universities are concerned about losing the business of international students partially or fully for the next academic year,” he says. Jayson echoes the fear of a potential decline in student numbers, adding that his university in Kentucky are preparing for various scenarios, including a fully online experience for the start of the next academic year. “The key here is to shift the thinking from emergency remote learning, which is a response to the pandemic, to thinking about robust, online learning experiences for students that are engaging, thoughtful, and well planned,” explains Jayson, who is also Co-Editor of Emerald’s Journal of Educational Administration . Impact on research projects Beyond, the impact of the crisis on student enrolment, universities are also bracing themselves for a potential cut to research funding. Farzad says his university in Teesside was already feeling the financial implications of the crisis. “We are losing some of the research income from industry-funded projects as the companies are facing uncertainties these days,” he says. Emmanuel repeats similar concerns but is starting to see the rise of new projects. “University members are in close contact with different funding agencies about extension of their projects,” he says. “A number of new partnerships and focused research projects have already been implemented responding to the need for information.” For some academics who are parents, particularly mums, research has been affected because of childcare responsibilities during the lockdown. Elizabeth Hannon, Deputy Editor of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science took to Twitter to reveal the potential impact COVID-19 was having on female academics. She tweeted, “ Negligible number of submissions to the journal

“We plan to maintain online teaching and learning even after face-to-face classes are resumed. We in higher education must accept

Innovation in education Empty lecture theatres and deserted laboratories have become the norm at many universities across the globe. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, universities took the radical decision to shift all teaching and assessment online, providing students and faculty support through online networks and groups. Associate Professor Jayson W Richardson and his colleagues at the Department of Educational Leadership Studies, University of Kentucky, USA, have been helping other faculty successfully make the move to online teaching and learning. “Being a large research endeavour, the University of Kentucky was not prepared for such a sudden shift. However, pockets of innovation have popped up,” he says. His department, for example, moved their courses and programmes online years ago and are using that expertise to help others in the college. Universities in Hong Kong were probably more prepared than most for the digital shift. Professor Leonard K Cheng, President of Lingnan University, Hong Kong, explains that due to social unrest, all programmes and courses were moved online in November 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak. “Our faculty and students started to use Moodle and pre-recorded videos to substitute for face-to-face classes,” he says. “That experience helped both faculty and students to transit to a long period of real time online teaching and learning.” For Dr Farzad Rahimian, Reader in Digital Engineering and Manufacturing, Teesside University, UK, the move to online for teaching, team meetings and ongoing research projects has been positive. “To be honest, I have been practising this for years, and I would say it works as good as a physical classroom, even better in many respects,” he says. Supporting faculty and students While celebrating their successes, researchers are also quick to point out the challenges of the move to online education. Farzad notes that not all staff at his university have been able to work

from home, due to lack of skills and/or access to technology. “For those that could work from home, there was an initial pressure of loading online materials for the entire semester,” adds Farzad, who is also Editor-in-Chief of Emerald’s journal, Smart and Sustainable Built Environment. Students are also struggling. Professor JC Gaillard at The University of Auckland, New Zealand and Co-Editor of Emerald’s journal, Disaster Prevention and Management explains that at his university, some students are facing financial and logistical problems. “We are providing a hardship fund for PhD students and have laptops on loan for students who don’t have their own device at home,” he says. The University of Copenhagen has responded to the pandemic by creating a crisis team to tackle some of the issues arising from campus closures. “We have been encouraging our students, alumni and colleagues to share their experiences through different fora such as blogs and interviews, ” adds Emmanuel Raju, Associate Professor at the Global Health Section and Co-Chair of Centre for Disaster Research (COPE) and Co-Editor of Emerald’s Disaster Prevention and Management . How universities are helping their communities In addition to helping students and faculty, universities across the globe are using their skills and resources to help their communities. At Lingnan University, Leonard explains how they are helping to solve health and hygiene issues among the underprivileged living in Hong Kong’s notorious ‘sub-divided units’. “Guided by our motto ‘Education for Service’, we launched a project, with financial support from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, to disinfect 1,000 ‘sub-divided units’ by making mobile UV-C systems and carrying out the disinfection work. Other universities in Hong Kong have also been making contributions such as making reusable masks, temperature sensor system, and antiseptic liquids.”

the reality of a paradigm shift” Professor Leonard K Cheng

The future role of the academic library Part of that future design could include a change in the function of the academic library. Joseph Esposito, Senior Partner at Clarke & Esposito, USA – a management consulting firm that provides strategic services to publishers – believes that the academic library will play an essential role in the delivery of future education. “Libraries have made a herculean effort to accommodate the sudden demand for online courses, and helping to provide textbooks is part of this,” he says. “This is one of the emergency-era actions that is likely to survive the crisis. […] we should expect to see librarians play a role in the undergraduate curriculum that is different in kind and degree from what we have grown familiar with over the years.” Coronavirus and the management of epidemics and the wider impact on society We have brought together a number of research resources related to the coronavirus group of viruses, and epidemics more broadly. View the content on the Emerald Publishing website

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