The pandemic has elevated the challenges of higher education and accelerated the need for a transformation. Covid-19 with a light-speed rendered online learning a necessity. Distance learning exposed technology’s potential to support new models for delivering higher education and better serve students and society. As Lawless and Pellegrino (2007: 576) noted before “the potential value of technology as a tool for teaching and learning has not gone unnoticed by major actors in education”. Tech-enabled real-time delivery model has a potential to be more affordable. Hooper and Rieber (1995: 9) rightfully stated that the technology is advantageous for “increasing the durability of instruction”.
Higher education will evolve from short-term degree place to education centers for a lifetime providing augmented skills and competencies during the entire contemporary professional career in the digital age. The programs will be tailored to obtain the required experience for specific roles and functions. Higher education will have to provide practical and soft skills, cultural awareness, and doctrinal knowledge. Students will have be get acquainted with a more global perspective and adapt to the fast pace, complexity, and mindset of digital business (COHEN, 2008). It is evident just like Lawless and Pellegrino (2012: 580) stated “technological literacy has fast become one of the basic skills of teaching”. Students will have to embrace challenges, provide solutions and adhere to a customer-first mindset. For instance, for majority of legal graduates, law will become a skill, not a practice due to the fact that the practice of law is shrinking and the business of delivering legal services is expanding. Higher education will not follow “one size fits all” approach to learning. Sophisticated digital learning management systems will enable leading scholars, thought leaders, and practitioners to deliver a personalised learning approach where student diversity, performance, behavior, and career objectives are taken into account. Apart from physical classroom teaching methods rely heavily on flipped classrooms, personalised adaptive learning, and interactive digital platforms to enhance and obviate the need for costly physical structures (COHEN, 2008). As Tur and Marin (2015) rightfully noted it should be properly embedded in the learning process in order not to be seen as an “add on” or something “additional” to the core learning. Contact higher education should incorporate innovation, creativity in teaching and knowledge consumption; adapt multiple blending teaching delivery modes.
The Art of Possible: Covid-19 is a Black Swan Opportunity to Reinvent Higher Education.
Socrates: “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” The global marketplace grows increasingly sophisticated and thus, professionals strive to gain a diverse skillset, allowing them to thrive in rapidly-evolving environments. Higher education should teach students how to think critically and be ready to face the competitive job market. This is important, if one considers that a child born today will live to be more than 100 years old. Does it mean he/she will work until they reach their 80s? Higher education should teach students how to plan for their future and the future of their family. An average student will have at least 5 jobs over the course of his/her working life. Thus, higher education should strive to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to be ready for all the changes awaiting them.
For instance, to train students to think like a lawyer is not a static concept, nor it is limited to critical thinking or doctrinal law. Legal higher education would have to teach to think from both the lawyer and the client perspective. Business oriented lawyers should “ <…>assess risk holistically, not through a narrow legal lens; and satisfy the objectives of the client, not produce the best possible legal product regardless of its relevance or client value. Thinking like a lawyer is not as important as learning how to drive impactful, timely, responsive, cost-effective, data-backed, holistic risk-assessed, actionable counsel to clients.” Higher legal education will have to incorporate “soft skills” such as collaboration, empathy, cultural awareness, client management, and customer service in a diverse, global, and multidisciplinary market (COHEN, 2008).
As the pandemic pushes more higher education activities online national borders seem less relevant and the process of globalisation is accelerating. “This globalization process has led both countries and people to become more interconnected. From the perspective of the legal profession, this globalization has demanded the creation of a new profile of lawyers: the ‘global lawyer’, that is, a lawyer exposed to international transactions and, therefore, to different laws and legal systems, institutions, cultures, languages and societies. <…> A global lawyer must first be a ‘global person’, that is, a person with a positive, respectful and open mind, always willing to learn from other people, cultures and societies. Every country should be treated equally; every culture should be equally respected; every person should be equally listened to. Second, a global lawyer of the 21st century must be familiar with technologies, since these can not only create efficiencies in the workplace, but are one of the main sources of interconnection – and therefore globalization – among people, companies, information, and markets. Third, global lawyers – especially in the field of business law or international transactions – should manage other disciplines particularly relevant for the law of business organizations, such as economics, accounting, and finance.” And thus, higher education should equip students with the necessary skills to help them pursue their dream career. Post pandemic legal higher education will have to take into consideration student health and well-being. Soft skills – resilience, flexibility and capacity for leadership should be some of the key graduates attributes.
On Campus Higher Education Is Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic
Universities are one of the oldest continuously operating institutions in the world (Lee, 2021). Higher education is not an App and the Covid-19 pandemic will not drive away the need for a university campus. Students should benefit from a global learning environment and top-tier networking opportunities. The personal interaction is inevitable when university wants students to be educated, not trained. The process of higher education occurs best when humans educate humans directly.
COVID-19 has presented both challenges and opportunities for a transformation that many within and outside the higher education sphere have been waiting for. Educational institutions ‘exist to integrate and
transform micro-specialised competencies into complex services that are demanded in the marketplace’ (Lusch et al. 2007, p. 7). Global competition in higher education landscape ensures that university is not merely about textbook learning or a didactic exchange. Universities had to adapt and offer student support, taking on a student-centred approach to teaching and learning. Professors have to emphasise personalised and interactive learning, use the responsive classroom approach. In a higher education students should be allowed to play an active role in their education, enabling them to think more critically, creatively, and develop their leadership skills. Lecturers need to recognize the importance of connectedness and embed a “can do” approach to teaching. Within a higher education context, the ‘appli- cation of specialised skills and knowledge is the fundamental unit of exchange’, building the fundaments for their differentiation and competitive advantage (Lusch et al. 2007, p. 7).
Pandemic demonstrated a renewed appreciation for classroom learning. University is about the holistic experience of life on campus, making lifelong friends, communicating effectively with people from diverse parts of the world. The networks of interactions is the core stone of the higher education and the value they offer (Barile et al. 2016). On campus experience is about valuable life lessons of adaptability, sociability that form the key of higher education. Higher Education has never been more important and universities should provide a world class education. We have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure that higher education continues to spur innovation, economic growth and gives students a chance to succeed in their careers.
Dr Beata Froehlich
Dr Ming-Jin Jiang
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