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Strategic Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education: The Good and the Bad

Strategic Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education: The Good and the Bad

In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all educational institutions have decided scaling up their educational systems by going digital. That has created an ultimate impact on higher education.

This is the time when all institutions, universities and schools decided to “create adaptable, innovative learning opportunities to all the children.


"If our ability to educate is limited to what takes place in any given physical building, we are never going to meet the unique needs of every student …. We must rethink education to better match the realities of the 21st century. This is the time for local education leaders to unleash their creativity and ingenuity, and I'm looking forward to seeing what they do to provide education freedom and economic opportunity for America's students," said Secretary DeVos, in a statement.


The Bad

On the bad side, given that college and university faculty hastily moved courses online without much support, online learning is being done poorly in many quarters across globally. Students are expressing their disgruntlement in a variety of ways, including asking for reimbursements.

Even experienced online instructors reported navigating unfamiliar territory. Faculty members who have struggled in the online environment and have not received enough support from their college or university are unlikely to have much enthusiasm for online learning in the future. Even in cases where teaching and learning centers on campuses intervene and help build the courses, they are likely overstretched, and so many courses have been poor substitutes for the originals (even if the originals were not terribly inspiring).


The Good

Those institutions with powerful virtual learning programs — especially if they are more reasonable than a traditional program — will continue to make strides. Online learning will develop from where it was pre-COVID-19 when over 33% of postsecondary students took at least one online class and around 30% of graduate students concentrated solely on web-based learning.

Mega-universities that offer affordable programs, such Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University New Hampshire University, will grow. Places like Arizona State University that offer robust online programs as well as in-person ones and can offer the potential for seamless transfer between the two are also likely to benefit.

For the Faculty, where Even experienced online instructors reported navigating unfamiliar territory: Fifty-one percent of the respondents said they were using new teaching methods in their courses.

Other findings included:

  • 97 percent of institutions moving classes online had to call on faculty with no previous online teaching experience.
  • 50 percent of institutions had at least some faculty with online teaching experience.
  • 48 percent of faculty who moved courses online reduced the quantity of work they expected from students, and 32 percent lowered their expectations for the quality of student work.


On the higher ed side, the Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grants are designed to "expand short-term postsecondary programs and work-based learning programs in order to get Americans back to work and help small businesses return to being our country's engines for economic growth." More information on specific eligibility and selection criteria is forthcoming in a supplemental notice from ED.

"Current students and displaced workers will be navigating a very different job market and economy once America reopens," commented Secretary DeVos. "This competition is a tremendous opportunity for states to think creatively and strategically about what their workforce needs will be and how to support entrepreneurs and small business in order to get the economic engines in their states firing on all cylinders again."

"Transitioning to a future with more digital instruction requires transformation of existing business models, institutional policies, and practices,"

Consider the IT, instructional design and professional development that need to be in place to achieve the best student experience.

"We are seeing significant momentum and adoption of new digital tools and evidence-based online teaching practices as a result of the pandemic-driven shift to online learning," said Kristen Fox, director at Tyton Partners and lead report author, in a statement. "However, as a field, we need to make sure that we are designing courses and implementing tools in conjunction with institutional practices and policies that effectively reach all students and close gaps.