Remote work: What it means for the future of higher ed

Derek Sharp
By: Derek Sharp
Date: April 23, 2020

Remote work: what it means for the future of higher ed

With the development of COVID-19, higher education institutions have had to be nimble and develop contingency plans to continue semesters online. Throughout the higher education landscape, the educational experience has shifted to distance-learning, and with that, are facing new challenges. Historically, higher education has relied on in-person teaching scenarios, with face-to-face interactions both in and out of the classroom. Orders to stay at home puts greater pressure on technology, and how to use it effectively to continue learning.

Students and faculty alike are charting relatively unknown territories with distance learning. Many higher education institutions are juggling new tools and finding ways to stay connected and relying even more heavily on technology. This can mean a variety of new initiatives; learning to teach remotely, and relying on systems for grading, testing, and submission of assignments. Students who may have formerly relied on campus technology are now learning to adapt to new working environments. In rural settings, some students are relying on assignments being mailed to them directly, as a workaround to limited technology and internet bandwidth.

Even more than distance learning, institutions are facing faculty challenges as their traditionally onsite staff have moved to remote work. Physical meetings and papers have been shifted to their electronic counterparts, and educators and staff are relying on technology they may not be used to using. With an ever-changing landscape of employees that span several generations, this can present its own challenges as staff are forced to adapt to a new way of work.

COVID-19 has forced colleges to adapt to remote work quickly. With that, they’ve also increased reliance on teaching, learning centers, and IT departments to keep them moving. For some institutions with large technological abilities, the transition has been easy, but for many, it is a stretch on their resources to keep things moving. The remote work environment puts larger emphasis on communicating efficiently with all stakeholders and may have illuminated a need for advancement in current processes and digital transformation.

As college and universities shift their priorities, higher education institutions are considering the “new normal.” Adapting to the digital age and remote work means that students, faculty, and staff are experiencing unprecedented change and learning strategies for sustainability of remote work. Considerations like technology, content development, as well as the barriers and challenges to distance learning, must be addressed. As the world returns to the new state of normal, higher education needs to consider the move toward this change.

While the transition to remote work and virtual learning may have been quick, higher education institutions will need to consider how to implement changes moving forward, and best prepare for what may be the future of higher education. Reimagining process, modernizing systems, and preparing students, faculty and staff with how changes directly affect them, will be the keys to success for everyone.

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