Covid-19 and the Future of Higher Education
By Oyenuga Michael Oyedele, PhD and Ahungwa Agnes Iember, Department of Marketing, Veritas University, Abuja, Nigeria
One of the deadliest diseases of our time is the respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which is popularly called COVID-19. This disease emanated from China in 2019 and has spread throughout the world, affecting over 200 countries . This virus is so deadly that almost every sector of the economy has been affected—sports, education, religion, politics, tourism (just to mention a few). Countries in Europe and South America (e.g., Brazil, Peru) are more negatively affected compared with their counterparts in Africa. However, many believe that if countries in Africa had adequate testing facilities, they would have recorded more fatalities compared to what is presently obtainable. As of 9 June 2021, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa amounted to 5,009,823 which represented around 2.9 percent of the infections around the world. In the African continent, South Africa is the most affected country with more than 1.71 million infections .
Efforts have been put in place to curb the spread and vaccines have been developed to help fight against the disease. Popular among them is the AstraZeneca vaccine, which experts say has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic patients . With the number of COVID patients increasing, and the different variants deriving from a mutated virus, there have been additional waves of the disease. As a result, many economies are being shut down, movements are being restricted, sporting activities are being postponed (or limiting spectators), and the implementation of face masks and restricted gatherings are viewed by many as the ‘new normal’. The question that is rather begging for answer is, ‘When are we leaving the new normal and returning to our old way of life?’ The Education sector, in particular higher education, is not immune from the effects of COVID-19. There have been a series of changes and policies put in place by administrators of such institutions.
Higher Education before COVID-19
Higher education in major parts of the world had witnessed tremendous progress before the pandemic. Institutions were able to run their normal academic calendar without disruption, except for few cases where there were local challenges (such as employee strikes, students’ protests, etc.).
Teaching and learning were predominantly physical (i.e., face-to-face), especially in Africa where the use of technology for teaching was not common. Major education stakeholders are opposed to online learning, and often those that study online have their certificates considered less authentic than those who studied in brick-and-mortar classrooms .
Across Europe and America however, there has been a deployment of virtual classes in addition to the physical ones. This made it possible for students to stay in their home countries while studying for degrees or courses at institutions located within other countries. This provided students with an opportunity to attend some of the most prestigious learning institutions in the world without leaving their home country.
Before COVID-19, higher education (just like education in general) had been mostly seamless with physical contact not seen as a barrier, and students and lecturers had physical interactions among themselves without concern. It was also common for students to formulate groups in various entities and to have group discussions or tutorials. Thesis defense, and other forms of oral presentations, were conducted physically, except in special circumstances where students were given advanced permission to do an oral examination virtually.
Students typically looked forward to graduation ceremonies as it was an avenue to walk across the dais with pride having accomplished their academic journey. Parents and well-wishers were also not left out of the fun that accompanied such ceremonies, as they all had the opportunity to felicitate with family members and friends.
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Dr. Oyenuga Michael is a Faculty/Coordinator of the Marketing Department, Veritas University, Abuja Nigeria. He has B.sc Business Administration, M.sc Global Operations and Supply Chains Management, PGD Marketing, Mini MBA, and a Ph.D. in Marketing and Communication.
Dr. Michael has over seven years of industry experience in the area of sales and marketing, with six years of continuous teaching and research. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Business and International Studies, Switzerland and Ascencia Business School (College De Paris), France.
Dr. Michael is A young scholar with over fifteen research articles in national and international (SCOPUS indexed) journals, he has attended/presented in many conferences as well; a reviewer and an excellent communicator. In addition, he teaches and supervises thesis at the undergraduate and graduate levels. His research interests include but are not limited to consumer behavior, promotions, branding, and supply chain.
Ahungwa Agnes Iember is a Lecturer in the department of Marketing, Faculty of Management Sciences Veritas University Abuja, Nigeria. She received a B.sc in Marketing and is currently a Postgraduate student in the same Faculty.
Although she is a young scholar, she has industry experience in the field of sales and marketing as well as publications both in local and international journals.
Steve Jones joined the Center for Information and Communication Sciences faculty in August of 1998. He came to Ball State University (BSU) after completing his doctoral studies at Bowling Green State University where he served as the Dean of Continuing Education developing a distance-learning program for the College of Technology’s undergraduate Technology Education program. Dr. Jones was instrumental in bringing the new program on board because of his technical background and extensive research in the distance-learning field.
Prior to coming to higher education, Dr. Jones spent over sixteen and a half years in the communication technology industry. He owned his own teleconnect, providing high-end commercial voice and data networks to a broad range of end users. Dr. Jones provided all the engineering and technical support for his organization that grew to over twenty employees and two and a half million dollars per year revenue. Selling his portion of the organization in December of 1994, Dr. Jones worked briefly for Panasonic Communications and Systems Company as a district sales manager providing application engineering and product support to distributors in a five-state area prior to starting doctoral studies.