As higher education continues to grapple with COVID-19 I’ve been talking with various kind interviewers. It’s a good way for me to think through my analyses.
Here are two.
Second, Doug Lederman at Inside Higher Ed asked me to reflect on this question: “What is your emerging vision for post-crisis higher education in general?” My compressed answer is in his column, and also copied here:
Much depends on how the pandemic plays out.
If nations like the U.S. can burn through all or the worst of COVID-19 in a couple of months, as China did, the impact will be intense but short term. If the coronavirus and our response persist for a year or more, academia will be redefined.
I fear many of the financial costs will clobber our budgets as state appropriations to publics reduce even further, as campus costs mount, international enrollment drops, endowments wither and families are just able to spend less on education. All of that occurs in the short-term scenario. If COVID-19 gnaws on nations for semesters on end, that will gut higher education’s finances. Given recent institutional history, we should expect an expanded adjunctification of the faculty and “queen sacrifice” cuts to programs (especially the humanities).
Our shift online could take several forms. First, if bad-experience stories circulate and have influence, we could see participation and even enrollment decline. Second, given equity issues worsened by recession, open education resources and open-access publishing could triumph. We may also see inequality drive different technology uses, with wealthier communities using more demanding technologies (virtual and mixed reality, telepresence) while poorer ones turn to tools with lower infrastructure demands (asynchronous video, audio, images and text).
Third, as entirely online pedagogy continues, certain pedagogies and support structures should win widespread attention. Colleges and universities might compete for students (as well as faculty and staff) based on how well and prominently they carry out these teaching methods. Fourth, if the pandemic persists unevenly, coming and going in waves over a long period, we might get used to alternating between face-to-face (i.e., really blended) teaching and wholly online instruction.
Research is experiencing a stall now as faculty remove themselves from on-campus resources. An attenuated pandemic could depress scholarly output for a year or more. At the same time, some faculty members may play an increasingly public role for their research, from work in health care to analyzing COVID-19’s impact through the lenses of sociology, political science, culture, media, urban studies, etc. This may appear both in formal scholarship, research and development, or public advocacy.
Read the whole column, which interviews other people. Interestingly, it’s a sequel to a first column, which is rich by itself. George Station and others critiqued it, and Doug responded seriously. Bravo to all.
And thank you to Howard, Doug, and their teams for interviewing me and sharing the results.
Every day I’m researching and reflecting on how the academy is rapidly changing. I try to blog about it for a bunch of reasons: to spur discussion, to get feedback on my thinking, to share information, and to document this extraordinary moment in history.
More to come!