What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed

By - 31st March 2020

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31st March 2020

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Tectonic shifts in society and business occur when unexpected events force widespread experimentation around a new idea. During World War II, for instance, when American men went off to war, women proved that they could do “men’s” work — and do it well. Women never looked back after that. Similarly, the Y2K problem demanded the extensive use of Indian software engineers, leading to the tripling of employment-based visas granted by the U.S. Fixing that bug enabled Indian engineers to establish their credentials, and catapulted them as world leaders in addressing technology problems. Alphabet, Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe are all headed by India-born engineers today.

Right now, the Coronavirus pandemic is forcing global experimentation with remote teaching. There are many indicators that this crisis is going to transform many aspects of life. Education could be one of them if remote teaching proves to be a success. But how will we know if it is? As this crisis-driven experiment launches, we should be collecting data and paying attention to the following three questions about higher education’s business model and the accessibility of quality college education.

Do students really need a four-year residential experience? Answering this question requires an understanding of which parts of the current four-year model can be substituted, which parts can be supplemented, and which parts complemented by digital technologies.


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