We’re witnessing a number of important trends changing education in the global context.
It’s clear that the pandemic and quarantine have become catalyzers of great changes in one of the largest traditional fields. The field of education has been pushed online, but there was no serious introduction. Everything changed forever a year and a half ago, when COVID-19 kept us in our homes and we had to look for new solutions, learning how to learn online.
Much world research, in particular recently the Deloitte & Gartner Report on Trends in Higher Education, notes a number of key trends.
First, the majority of transformations in universities and the changes expected by students are connected with technologies. Even now, when the quarantine has relaxed, we can partially return offline and study in classrooms, but the question comes: “Should we dispose of the Zoom link?” It’s likely that in the group there will always be someone who, for some reason or another, can’t come to class. And that means that expectations for the achievements of education will still lead to a hybrid format (possibilities to choose: to take part in a lesson in a classroom or online).
Also, universities should work on new, clear rules of the game, in particular regarding attending lessons. Because the student cannot only fail to attend in person only because it is difficult to get to the university in the morning or he simply changed his mind. Foreseeing and understanding group dynamics is important for the teacher in planning an educational process with results. There should also be new rules and agreements by which everyone works.
The second global education trend — large-scale technological innovation. Last year, a number of educational institutions made a significant step in this direction, but they can’t stop. There must be technological innovations in education, and this is a field which must constantly be improving. Development, the introduction of technologies, improving internal teaching processes and new functions which are connected with a change in the format of the educational process — there is a new, large, and obligatory list of investments for universities.
Third trend — the personalization of education. This affects everything: the approach to instruction, choice of courses, their format, order, time, and changes in the paradigm of education. Each student now is a separate individual. The concept of a group is in second place. (Though throughout the world this tendency has been gaining strength for a long time, Ukraine is behind, and only now is it gradually coming to a real introduction of elective fields and individual trajectories for the student.)
Students also have new expectations of universities and they themselves want, depending on their own needs and possibilities, to build an individual trajectory of development. This particularly involves master’s programs and post-graduate education. This works on the “Lego” principle (when the person isn’t forced immediately to choose a long, two-year master’s program, but can with sub-programs and certificates “choose” his future diploma). This becomes even more needed in the instruction of adults.
The theme of mental health became topical during the pandemic in the whole world, so universities and companies can’t be quiet about this. Much research and reporting writes about expectations that universities should invest in and develop a culture of concern for mental health. It’s interesting that the last year and a half teachers themselves have taken on the function not only of teaching but of noticing if something is not right with one of the students. Clearly, this is not a direct obligation of the teaching role, but as human beings they should react to troubling signals and draw further attention to these. Universities should have an internal system for this, where students and staff can turn for help, for example, psychological counseling (by the way, UCU already has a practice like this), and this is an important part of university life.
What is the consequence of global educational changes?
Students, teachers, and the administration of the university are already not three separate groups that work to achieve their own goals, according to 800 years of tradition in higher education. Now these three groups of stakeholders can determine the future of the university only by close cooperation. New possibilities for students have appeared. Teachers work under different conditions, and how to improve and run this process is a big challenge.
The western press has christened modern educational tendencies with the word “reimagining,” generally re-thinking what higher education is. There are innovations which are bringing radical changes to industries. iTunes changed music, Netflix rental and the culture of viewing films, Kindle the book market. Radical change in education is also happening before our eyes, the personalization of study. It’s interesting that here there is no single player, a clearly outstanding leader who’s breaking the system. So, in fact, each one can either become part of these seismic changes or remain a local player (or totally disappear). How did we traditionally operate before Covid? One method of study was proposed for all. But the way in which we study should be personalized by experience, for no two people process information in the same way.
My advice for those who are beginning studies at university: Don’t think about how you can make your way as short, simple, and easy as possible, but how to make it as useful as possible. Maybe you won’t again have an opportunity like this to develop (because education at a mature age has many distracting factors: work, family). So I advise using this “golden” time fully.
And, finally, no one knows what the next academic year will be like. As a university, we did much last year to be together, and we managed successfully to introduce a hybrid format of education and provide lodging on campus. But unexpected circumstances can quickly arise. The possibility that something won’t work out is very great. The virus has started affecting younger people, and that means that there is a threat that the whole year will not be conducted in the classroom. Could the format in which we studied last year become the new norm?
Sophia Opatska, Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, Founding Dean of the UCU Lviv Business School
Photo: The Ukrainians