In the past years, the educational field has been programming and experimenting with several digital learning solutions. However, the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak accelerated it all by forcing the higher education institutions to move from theory into practice – and that is where the first problems emerged. The general opinion is that what happened so far was more of an emergency- rather than a digital kind of learning. Students and institutions were unprepared, and, what is more, the latter did not foresee the crisis that was about to come concerning international student mobility. Nevertheless, some strategic steps can be taken to improve the current scenario.
The Covid-19 impact on higher education
Even if several higher education institutes were programming to launch blended or fully online courses and some of them were even almost there; something still went wrong. The acceleration of this progress caused by the Covid-19 outbreak did not make things easier. The majority sustains that online studying resulted more in an emergency than in digital learning from the beginning of the pandemics. For instance, students who already had difficulties in concentration did not improve their performance; moreover, access to technological devices and a reliable internet connection became severe issues for most learners.
Difficulties that higher education institutes had to face
Universities and colleges also had unexpected expenses such as technology costs for online courses, extra cleaning operations, students, and staff room refunds. Besides, not all schools refunded tuition fees, and some others were forced to revise scholarship eligibility. Some parts of some universities remained open without moving entirely online, improperly programmed online courses, and the overall situation caused a drop in enrollment applications. Even if some universities were planning or already had some online courses, the current situation proves that there are several issues with online learning which became the leading cause of the enrollment reduction.
International student (and staff) mobility
Secondly, one of the most damaged sectors in higher education since the Coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly international students and staff mobility. University and college campuses were perceived as cultural hubs: international students used to bring positive multicultural engagement to the local ones while providing financial benefits for institutions.
After the pandemics, several abroad student exchange programs have been closed. Unfortunately, most universities and colleges do not let international students enrol in entirely and fully online-taught programs; the only options are blended or entirely in-person courses. Moreover, travel restrictions have injured global student mobility because they are blocked in the hosting country with no possibility of returning or the other way around. Students are willing but unable to depart and live their abroad experience in the university or college of their choice.
Economic downturn caused by international students’ and staff immobility
Additionally, even if both – hosting and receiving universities – have tried to support their international students and staff by providing psychological and financial support, the situation is still critical. It has brought a drop in international applications. Besides, this may result in international students preferring only countries near theirs, resulting in a significant economic downturn for the states used to hospitalize thousands of international students.
Finally, the solution and the response of higher education institutes to the Covid-19 crisis have shown their weaknesses. For instance, it lacks online learning and, not to mention, the gaps in the international student mobility field were perhaps the most evident, but this does not mean that the situation must remain like that. There is a need for a more appropriate system that allows international students to benefit from fully online taught programs allowing them to study from home as long as they cannot go to the hosting country. Moreover, students should receive mental – and, in some verified cases, financial support for helping them during their online learning progress. The universities should improve and hire more IT staff for offering better service for everybody, students, and the professors and administrative staff.
The latter should educate the students to undertake elementary but proper measures for preventing the spread of disease, including the Covid-19 protocols. Simultaneously, educators working in universities and colleges should receive adequate education on conducting online lessons while also getting inspired by other educators and instructors to offer a better online learning experience. There may be several difficulties, but the most important thing is to try to overcome them and solve them while continuing to put up with the current situation caused by Covid 19.
ACS response to the impact caused by Covid-19
ACS – ASOMI College of Sciences has set up the best online-taught programs to provide for foreign and local students’ needs. Digital materials, online counselling with educators and experts, well-planned lessons, and everything designed for staying updated with the latest current digital teaching and learning trends – constitute the basis for both blended and fully online-taught courses in higher education. ASOMI College of Sciences grants its students everything needed for pursuing a college degree, whether a degree for online or semi-online learning courses.
In other words
The education has now gone almost entirely online. Even if several institutions had already considered and experimented with online learning, digital learning acceleration after the Covid-19 outbreak did not bring the expected results. One of the most damaged areas was, by no surprise, one of the international exchanges. But even if there are difficulties in online learning programs and with the drop of both domestic and international students’ applications, there are still some measures that can be adapted to improve the current situation.
For instance, fully online taught programs for international students, instruction of the local students on the prevention of the disease, or investing in IT staff are just a few solutions that could be adapted.