Technology in Higher Education: Effect of the Pandemic

With the start of the 21st century and a digital age greatly affected by the concept of the ‘Internet’, it was supposed to be only a matter of time before their influence would be disruptive for the field of education. Yet, even without the use of any facts or articles to support this, we do know that this was a very subjective development speaking country-wise, based on the economy, education system, connection to the majority of the learners, etc. When we were tasked with writing a blog post related to ‘Technology in Higher Education’, the first thing that came to my mind was the impact that the emergence of the pandemic has caused for the development of this field. I know it might be controversial to say this however I think that the forced transition to digital methods and usage of technology for dissemination of knowledge due to the COVID-19 pandemic has started the building of a road that will lead to more access to education for many. Of course, this might also mean that in some countries which have very poor infrastructure related to the internet, it has led to students being cut off from education itself.

An interesting, although short, interview by Professor Ubell sheds some light on this topic. In this interview, even he states that the pandemic kind-of caused an amateur but necessary transition to online learning as the institutions were forced to respond to the conditions in order to continue the dissemination of knowledge. I still remember an additional week of break was granted by Virginia Tech solely for all faculty to be able to make the digital transition. In our case where the Canvas LMS has led to greatly digital interactions with study material already, this was important especially in the cases of math-oriented subjects which need a pen-and-paper approach for maximum understanding by working it out. In my home country, India, there were many cases where school teachers who are not that technology-adept had to work along with their own kids to be able to understand the logistics and actually deliver the learning materials by the use of Zoom or other conferencing software.

One interesting observation in this regard is something I want to connect to the NMC Horizon Reports. One of the points mentioned in a report from 2014 was the ‘Lower Digital Fluency of the Faculty’ among other points. Going through them made me feel that in hindsight it was like a prediction of the needs in the future, as the transition would have been much smoother if such reports that are being prepared all around the world are used as references by the governments, universities, and accreditation agencies for the betterment of the pedagogical experience.