Emerging Traits of the Post Corona University


In the years ahead higher education will likely remain, along with other institutions, an effective force for the betterment of societies. Asides from leading the quest to uncovering more truths, it will continue to help forge the discerning citizenry necessary for the functioning of democracy. In addition, at a practical level, it will contribute to equipping individuals with the skills required in an increasingly dynamic and demanding labor market.

The year-long Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated trends that were apparent across the sector and will define how universities operate in the future. In this entry, we comment how such developments are reshaping teaching & learning, research, innovation and service.

Teaching & Learning:

· In the post pandemic era, the shift toward online and hybrid teaching and learning will speed up. The preferred models will be those that can scale up delivering quality and efficiency. Successful institutions will leverage technology to deploy academic/busines models that improve access and affordability while also enhancing the student experience and learning outcomes.

· The diminishing ROI of the 4-year undergraduate degree will drive individuals into other less costly and time-consuming options. Micro credentials, bootcamps, unbundled programs and standalone courses leading to mastering skills will be increasingly attractive paths to fulfilling the American dream. The boom in fields like computer science, AI, digital marketing, game / app development, AR and VR will gain further momentum as industry endorsements increase.

· The emerging teaching and learning landscape will pose challenges to traditional faculty, who will be forced to move away from its comfort zone to being more student-centered. More practitioners will join the teaching ranks and the value of its hands-on expertise will pair evenly with the theoretical knowledge offered by traditional academicians.

Research

· Specialization will continue, but most breakthroughs will come about at the intersection of two or more disciplines. The use of genetics to develop the Covid-19 vaccines, along with the advances seen in biotechnology, nano technology, new materials and alternative energy are indicative of the exciting path of discovery that lies ahead.

· Access to public funding will continue to be highly competitive, but private endowments will grow. Philanthropic organizations and the R&D arms of corporations, both interested in doing good and doing well, will increasingly back research projects in leading-edge fields where there are promising social and economic returns.

· There will be a need for stricter enforcing of ethical standards to protect subjects, and to ensure the integrity of the research findings and its applications.

Innovation

· The academic freedom that fuels innovation will continue to be a distinctive trait of the American university, especially in its upper echelons. However, a growing number of nimbler non-elite institutions will be able to focus and claim leadership in specialized domains.

· The innovation seen in several industrial and technological sectors will need to be followed by similar efforts in the social sciences. Many of the social norms that rule peaceful domestic and international coexistence-- including the ways to channel dissent—are in need of reformulation, and universities seem ideal labs for testing new models that promote civility.

· There is an opportunity--many would argue, an urgent need--to rethink the social and economic order to make it more inclusive and equitable. Universities can be the places where a fresh consensual vision of society can emerge.

Service

· Universities will continue to be epicenters of progress. The consolidation of the knowledge economy will accentuate its relevance as learning, research and innovation hubs. The links to society will strengthen along lines of specialty, and universities will serve as knowledge backbones providing know-how and talent to core industries like health care, education, energy and transportation.

· Guided by a collaborative spirit, higher ed institutions, governments, companies and NGOs will join in “common purpose clusters” to tackle general widespread challenges. In such clusters, universities will be pivotal for sharing knowledge, offering advice and consulting, and leading research projects.

Finally, the pandemic has remined us that in the journey of life we are all inevitably bound together. More than ever, the active involvement and commitment of students—as main stakeholders holding the keys to the future--will be essential to ratifying the relevance of higher ed and its contribution to creating a brighter tomorrow.

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