Leaders of colleges and universities around the world have all been seized by the same question regarding the future of higher education. Conversations have explored various nuances, from warning of the impending doom of existing models of higher-education institutions to extremes in the virtual education continuum and the rise of technologies and adapted pedagogies. However, there is unanimous agreement that change is inevitable in the world after the disruptions caused by Covid-19.
When we take a moment to pause and look back, it is incredible that we have had 10 weeks of delivering our academic offerings online. . At Hamad Bin Khalifa University, as at many institutions around the world, this shift was made literally overnight. Our students, grappling with new realities and their own personal struggles, completed their academic year; about 130 students completed and defended their theses. Faculty and support staff, rapidly adjusting to the concept of remote operations, ensured the delivery of more than 120 courses virtually. We did what we had to under extraordinary circumstances and within significant time constraints.
However, these solutions are mere Band-Aids to the greater reconceptualization of the future of higher education. They served their urgent purpose but now our pedagogies need the attention of the surgical room. Like many contemporary solutions, our education system needs to be reimagined in a sequential phased manner. We are still operating within an emergency protocol, but this period of distance learning has been the ideal motivation to strive for what we had shelved earlier. It is time to be bold, creative, and challenging. We have an entire educational delivery system to reinvent for the Fall term where we realistically may still have to practice online or in a blended format; and then reimagine it again for a post-Covid-19 world when our campuses will be reactivated.
These last few weeks have highlighted significant advantages to virtual teaching. As primarily a graduate university, a significant proportion of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s students come with existing careers, businesses, family commitments, and other demands on their time. The element of flexibility in virtual learning can greatly enhance their quality of life. Recorded class sessions will support various learning styles that thrive on self-paced education. Chat rooms and breakout rooms without a physical presence can encourage more reticent personalities to be more actively involved. The list goes on.