The Great Pandemic of our era has altered the very foundations of modern life as we knew it. Among the institutions affected, universities stand out as bastions of education and innovation.
But what of the university experience? In the midst of the chaos, the once lively and bustling campuses were reduced to empty shells. Any contact between the students and faculty were diminished in their essence by masks and social distancing. The traditional student experience was replaced by an online learning environment and Zoom-based social events devoid of the excitement and camaraderie that once defined the university experience.
But do not despair, dear reader, for there is hope. If there’s one thing we do well as a society, it’s to thrive in the face of adversity. Universities coped with the pandemic, and then went on to apply the lessons learnt from the crisis to create a better experience for everyone. In fact, Covid-19 provided an ample opportunity for educators and policy makers to revaluate higher education systems and reconsider what is most important for future generations.
Today, many universities have embraced a hybrid model of learning, blending online coursework with in-person classes and activities. New interactive tools and technologies have added depth and engagement to delivering higher education. There is a greater focus on health and safety, including increased support and awareness towards mental health. The pandemic has opened up new opportunities that we didn’t have before, making higher education more accessible than ever.
Let’s discuss some of the most burning questions that are being asked by current and future university students as they navigate one of the most important stages of their lives.
A keynote study in the US gathered three university presidents to discuss how the pandemic resulted in institutions re-evaluating the traditional higher education model.
Will I have to take classes online or in-person?
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being felt by countries in different parts of the world, so this depends. The approach to course delivery varies on each university’s policies, local and national health guidelines, and vaccination rates. Many universities are offering a hybrid model that combines online and in-person learning, while others are fully online or fully in-person. Check with the specific university you are interested in for their current policies.
How will a hybrid learning model help me?
The impact of online learning on the quality of education has been a topic of debate among educators and students. While some argue that online learning provides a more flexible and personalized approach to learning, others believe that it lacks the quality and interaction of in-person classes.
With online learning, you have the freedom to attend lectures from the comfort of your own home, without having to worry about commuting to campus. Don’t want to get out of bed? No problem. Not wearing any pants to your lecture? Sure (just don’t let anyone else catch on). On the other hand, in-person learning gives the chance to have valuable face-to-face interactions with your peers and professors, which can enhance your learning experience and build a sense of community.
So why not have the best of both worlds? Hybrid learning offers:
Some classes are being offered in ‘hyflex mode’ – with a mix of on campus and remote students. Students can attend classes in-person if they prefer a more traditional learning experience, or they can attend classes online if they prefer to work from home or cannot attend in-person due to personal, travel, or health reasons. This flexibility allows students to customize their learning experience to their individual needs, which can increase engagement and motivation.
- Increased accessibility
Students who may have difficulty attending in-person classes, such as those with disabilities or those living in remote areas, can still participate in classes through online options. This can increase access to education for those who may have otherwise been excluded from traditional in-person learning.
- An enhanced learning experience
Online classes can provide students with access to a wide range of digital resources, including interactive multimedia and online discussion forums. These resources can complement traditional in-person classes and provide students with more opportunities to engage with the material.
- Preparation for the career world
As we move towards a more digital and remote workforce, having experience with online tools and technology is becoming more and more important. By incorporating online learning into the university experience, students are developing skills that could be indispensable in their future careers.
What are the online learning tools being used by universities?
Here are some examples of the tools being utilized to aid teaching and learning:
- Learning Management Systems (LMS)
Platforms like Blackboard, Canvas, and Moodle allow instructors to create and share course materials, facilitate online discussions, and assess student performance.
- Video Conferencing Software
Tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet allow for real-time interaction between instructors and students, as well as the ability to record and share class sessions for those who are unable to attend in real-time.
- Interactive Learning Tools
Tools like Kahoot, Quizlet, and Poll Everywhere enable instructors to create quizzes, polls, and interactive games to engage students and assess their understanding of course material.
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Some universities have begun experimenting with immersive and engaging learning experiences. For example, students can use VR headsets to explore virtual environments and simulations, or AR apps to overlay digital information on the physical world.
- Electronic Textbooks
Providing course materials in a digital format allows it to be easily accessed from anywhere. Some universities have even begun partnering with e-book providers to offer students access to a wider range of digital resources.
How do universities ensure the health and safety of students and staff?
As life after the pandemic resumes to normal, concern for the safety of students and staff remains. Many universities have adopted extra measures to guarantee maximum safety. Depending on which institution you attend, these can include (but are not limited to):
- Frequent cleaning and sanitizing of campuses.
- Upgraded air conditioning systems for better ventilation and to reduce the chances of airborne pathogens.
- Hand sanitizers readily available throughout campuses.
- Re-arrangement of common areas and classes to allow for social distancing.
- Additional support services for mental wellbeing and self-care, such as counseling and mental health resources.
- Many institutions continue to offer free vaccinations in line with local government guidelines.
Is financial assistance available for students who are struggling due to the pandemic?
Yes, many universities around the world have acknowledged that the pandemic has been financially hard-hitting on families and individuals, and are doing what they can to help. This assistance can come in the form of emergency grants, scholarships, and loans. Some universities also waived or reduced fees for certain programs or services, such as housing or meal plans. The availability and types of financial assistance can vary depending on the university and country. For example, in the United States, the government has provided additional funding for universities to distribute to students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). In Canada, many universities have established their own emergency funding programs, such as the COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund at the University of British Columbia. Check with the university you’re applying to if any measures are still in place.
Some countries offer more affordable education than others. Take a look at the average costs in the top 10 countries around the world where a degree won’t break the bank.
How has the pandemic affected the admissions process? What should I expect when applying to universities?
The pandemic has encouraged universities to reconsider their admission policies. Many have become more flexible, with some introducing test-optional policies for admission. This means that instead of submitting standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT, there is greater emphasis on non-academic factors such as extracurricular activities, character and personality, and work experience. Click here to learn more about how universities are changing their approach to admissions.
Many universities are offering virtual campus tours, webinars, and information sessions for potential students. Here at Global Admissions, we run Online Open Days to give you the chance to connect with some of the top universities around the world, all from the comfort of your home.
How has the pandemic impacted internships and other career opportunities?
The impact has been both bad and good, depending on how you choose to look at it. The pandemic forced many companies to cut back on internships, and opportunities for jobs that can be done remotely have become more competitive as candidates from all over the world can apply for the same positions.
However, there are also opportunities which you can benefit from. There are now a plethora of new jobs created in industries such as healthcare, technology, and e-commerce. With the rise of virtual internships and remote work, students have the chance to gain experience and network with professionals from all over the world, which can be a valuable asset in their future careers. With the job market becoming increasingly competitive, a university degree can provide you with a significant advantage in securing employment. Additionally, your studies and exposure to like-minded students can expand your mind and open the doors to new ideas and opportunities.
Is this a good time to enroll into university?
Indeed; the post-pandemic age is a great time to get a tertiary qualification for several reasons. To summarize our Q&A, many universities have adapted their teaching methods to be more flexible and offer more online options, which can make studying more accessible and convenient for students. The adoption of digital tools and new technologies have made some classes more interactive and engaging than ever before. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of certain fields of study, such as public health and environmental sciences, and has created more opportunities for students interested in these areas. Finally, with an increasingly competitive workforce, a university degree will help you stand out amongst other job applicants and give you a boost in your confidence and career.
Overall, despite the challenges of the pandemic, there are many compelling reasons to pursue higher education at this time. At Global Admissions, we’re here to help you navigate the admissions process and answer any further questions or concerns you might have. Book a call with us or browse through the programs to get started.