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Expert Insights 01: Impact of COVID on Higher Education

Posted on August 14, 2020 by Umer Fayaz  | Academics | Blog

The current pandemic has taken a toll on everything. From businesses to travel to education, almost every sector is badly hit. While economies are grappling to find a solution to deal with the menace, experts are saying that the repercussions of it are more far-reaching.

Many countries are in a race to produce an effective vaccine to control the virus but the jolt it has given to the global economy will certainly take its time to recover.

To answer some of the pressing questions on the post-pandemic world, especially in the higher education ecosystem – one of the most disrupted sectors – we interviewed expert faculty from the Indian School of Business and Finance (ISBF).

Since many universities have shifted to online education, how do you see that affecting the quality of education in terms of learning outcomes? How do you think students will react to this shift in the mode of education?

Dr Tayal:

It is not the matter whether the classes are online or offline but how the academic delivery is designed. How effectively we are able to engage students in an academic exercise and how fairly the grading process is conducted is what decides the success in teaching and learning. Although there are some limitations to it, one being the absence of physical interaction and complexity in using an intermediary technology, it is the next possible alternative if not the best one. We have to ensure that we provide an environment for collaborative learning to maximize the output of online education.

Dr Jitin Chadha:

There is a slight challenge because the transition from offline to online education was quick but the metric to gauge the effectiveness of an educational process is student engagement. It requires increased efforts from faculty members to engage students over an online medium. Teachers have to adopt innovative ways to increase student participation through polls, quizzes and other activities rather than reading from the notes and presenting slides. If the bidirectional flow of information is maintained, classes are like to yield more results.

Beyond moving online, how do you think is the pandemic forcing colleges to change?

Chiraag Mehta:

The audience has certainly moved online. Beyond that, there are many changes that this pandemic has brought about. The class sizes are becoming smaller and campus interactions have been totally reshaped. Institutions are learning to be more flexible in terms of finances and other aspects. Another interesting thing is that classroom delivery has become more individualized. The fact that the teacher is right in front of a student through polls etc. has the potential to make the process more effective. The normal fear is that the students do not connect with the topic when it is taught online but the recent iAspire workshop that we conducted was completely online and every time we asked questions to the participants, they were always on point, which surely is a fair metric to judge the success of the online education

Many suggest that the pandemic has brought about a long-overdue revolution in the education industry with respect to recalibrating the focus on core learning. How far do you agree with this?

Jitin Chadha:

If we talk about education at the undergraduate level, students mostly find value in college life because of the various activities they take up apart from academics. They join academic clubs, volunteer for social work and take part in inter-college debates and other co-curricular activities, all this contributes to the college experience. We cannot imagine a whole undergraduate degree being taught online where students are going to miss the on-campus experience but there are many things that are better executed online. In order to get the best out of both online and on-campus education, we need to blend both.

What is the impact of the COVID-19 on prospective international students? Do you see a shift in the trend of students going to study abroad?

Chiraag Mehta:

There is a substantial dip in the number and it will be more clear in the coming months. Considering the size of our country and a relatively lesser number of world-class educational institutions, there is a much stronger pull for Indian students to go abroad than that of any other country.

Dr Tayal:

The world is uncertain as of now and people are reluctant to travel abroad. Many institutions have shifted to online and some institutions that hugely relied on international admissions are facing financial crunch due to low admission rates.

Considering it functions as a part of an international ecosystem, how is ISBF coping up with the changing trends? Why is it a better alternative during these times?

Chiraag Mehta:

Our extensive collaboration and pedagogical training from LSE has prepared us in many ways to take on blended learning. We conducted webcam invigilated exams and classes are going smoothly. There are many challenges though but we have been able to overcome them at a very fair degree. One of the biggest challenges is student interactions which many institutions are missing on, but our student societies have done a tremendous job during this lockdown to retain the interactions. Our dance society in collaboration with dancers worldwide conducted a dance workshop that was attended by a lot of people. Such things make us a better choice for such times. You are getting a world-class education in India without incurring the financial burden and health risk to travel abroad.

Jitin Chadha:

The job market is flattening out and the talent hunt is at a global level. In such a scenario, having a degree that is of international repute is going to give you an edge. People in New York and London will value the education that is global which is what ISBF offers. The programmes are academically directed by the London School of Economics and students get a degree from the University of London while staying in India.

Dr Jitin Chadha is the founder and director of ISBF. He has his PhD in Finance from Delhi University and M.Sc. Economics & Finance from the University of Warwick, UK.

Chiraag Mehta is the Associate Director at ISBF. He is a former investment banker at HSBC London and has worked as a consultant with the World Bank. He has his Master’s in Economics from the LSE

Dr Tayal is the Dean Academics at ISBF. He has a PhD in Management from the Department of Commerce, University of Delhi.

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