Rovy Branon believes in the power of education to promote positive change, advance social equity and improve lives. “In times like these, with a global pandemic, social unrest and political discord, education can help bring people of diverse backgrounds and opinions together into a supportive and collaborative community to equip them and enable them to solve the problems we face,” said Branon, vice president of Continuum College, the continuing education and professional development unit at the University of Washington.
Prior to COVID-19, online learning primarily appealed to older students. Typically, these learners wanted to keep learning, but had other commitments – jobs and families – that made learning in the classroom more difficult. With the coronavirus now redefining education, every student has become an online learner, and universities that already have strong online programs benefit the most.
Online learning to revamp your career
The impacts of longevity on higher education are already being felt as the student population skews old and new forms of higher education gain traction. “Education doesn’t end when you graduate,” Branon said. “Modern life demands that you continue to educate yourself as technology changes, society changes, and the way we work changes.”
There has not been a time in recent history when the workplace has undergone such massive change. Professional work that can be done remotely has moved to the home. Everyone has had to improve their ability to navigate online forums, whether it’s Zoom meetings or Slack for increased team communication.
For the most part, all of the technical skills one needs to survive in a post-COVID-19 work environment can be found online. On the contrary, the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the possibilities of distance learning as a tool for content delivery and professional development.
“The scaling up of classes during the pandemic shows us that we can accommodate more people, almost anyone,” according to Branon. “We don’t have to limit the number of people in a class because of the size of a classroom, which can expand to meet actual demand.”
Since most jobs require some sense of change in this new standard of work and life, e-learning is a great way to stay competitive. Education and training continue throughout working life. The time people invest in some form of formal training helps them get off the ground and develop a career.
Continuing education doesn’t necessarily mean a degree, but a program could be a great path for a career change. “In its most basic form, education follows a curiosity. It’s about educating yourself on how best to navigate a situation or contribute to a problem that needs solving.”
Technical Boot Camps are a great example of using online technology to successfully reorganize and change careers, even across industries.
“Some jobs might not come back,” Branon said. “We were already seeing reports of overbuild in some service industries before COVID-19. Once we get through the initial recovery to rescue as many businesses as possible, the focus is on what’s next. Online learning provides the same set of skills you’ll need for successful remote work.”
Traditional university courses will be different
While some universities, including Harvardhave already decided that all classes will be conducted virtually, other schools are hoping to bring students safely back to campus.
In Lubbock, Texas Tech University (TTU) will resume in-person teaching and learning for the fall 2020 semester using a mix of face-to-face, hybrid, and online modalities. On their website, the university states that more than two-thirds of courses will be taught using some degree of face-to-face instruction. Although students will be required to wear a mask or face covering when attending a class in person or inside any building on campus, instructors will not be required to wear a mask to meet the needs of hearing-impaired students.
A Survey by College Pulse and the Charles Koch Foundation of 5,000 students last month said nearly seven in ten students thought their school did an excellent (23%) or good (46%) job when asked how well their college responded to the coronavirus epidemic. About half of students (46%) said most of their professors were able to effectively transition from in-person to online instruction.
What students don’t like is the idea of paying the same tuition for online learning. In the survey, “there is near-universal agreement among students that they shouldn’t have to pay full tuition if schools only offer online courses and study options. distance learning. More than nine in ten students say students should pay much less (63%) or slightly less (30%) for intuition if only online learning options are available.”
At TTU, students opting for virtual learning are asking for a tuition reduction. “Contrary to what many people think, online courses actually cost more at university,” the university writes in the FAQ. “At TTU, online courses include online and distance learning fees to help offset the increased technology costs of delivering courses online.”
Take advantage of this period to recreate your future
There are inexpensive options to explore when considering a change. MOOCs (massive open online courses) are currently experiencing a huge growth in registrations. UC Irvine saw a 300% increase in MOOC usage in March. Take the free course and see if this is a topic that interests you and that you want to learn more about as you progress through your professional life.
Branon’s message is to use this time to reimagine and recreate your future. “A lot of us have been spending a lot more leisure time in front of a screen lately. Netflix has had its best quarter. You need that time with the kids and for yourself to enjoy leisure time, but one night a week, start career exploration. Recreate your future.”
He recommends starting with a little scenario planning. “Plan two, three, four scenarios like you do with work, do it yourself, look at three months, six months and plan your options. today. You can chart a course, even if it’s not ultimately the course you take, but start charting.”
Branon knows that remote learning isn’t perfect. “Some of our quick decisions are likely to create unintended inequities and these will need to be addressed. We should be aware, however, that this change may also improve other inequities for students who do not have the privilege of attending our in-person most elite universities. On the bright side, even the most prestigious universities can provide high-quality educational experiences no matter where a learner is physically located in the world.
“Our current era of distance learning is far from perfect,” he concludes, “but the promise of what is now possible will not be forgotten.”