COVID-19 a catalyst for innovation in higher education

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The pandemic disrupts the global supply chain causing economic shock across industries. However, the education sector is also grappling the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) as universities halted physical attendance as an aggressive step in preventing COVID-19 escalation.

The outbreak caught many universities off guard, leaving them shutting down campuses and shifting to online classes to continue teaching. But some institutions have their lectures called off due to lack of distance learning platform. Classes have been suspended beginning early March until the situation comes back normal.

While schools in developed economies can change to virtual learning seamlessly, institutions in less developed and developing countries – such as the Philippines – are constrained for a complete digital switch because of limited access to the online platform.

Online learning is a universally adopted teaching methodology; however, the quality of education is largely influenced by the level and quality of access to technology. This will change the education experience of almost 3 million university students in the Philippines who gone through face-to-face lectures only throughout their academic journey.

But the question is how capable and effective our schools in delivering a digital learning solution? this question makes them rethink their resources, priorities, and innovation strategy.

What is needed now

The COVID-19 shakes the traditional learning method and a disruption-resilience solution is much needed now for educators to run on teaching. Fostering collaboration between stakeholders and implementing a university-wide learning management system (LMS) would be a transformative step towards cutting-edge education. LMS is a virtual platform designed to enable educators to develop and deliver learning materials and interact with students 24/7.

Having this system in place accelerates institutions’ resiliency against disruptions.

Current challenges

Although some universities have systems already running, the majority is facing barriers for innovation to get ahead.

Restrained digital access. In contrast to developed nations where all students own a laptop, fewer students in the Philippines have it or at least a desktop computer in their house. Students overcome this by going to the internet shop or share devices with those without a computer. Moreover, internet access quality has long been a challenge due to cost, slower speed, and limited geographical reach.

Technology proficiency. Since distance learning has not gained much traction among Philippine universities, getting acquainted with the whole new platform takes time especially for less tech-savvy educators and students. Because a user’s know-how of the platform contributes to the quality of education, it becomes fundamentally important to train stakeholders to master it.

Cost. As with any other solutions, cost remains the primary consideration before diving in. the cost can be divided into monetary and time. Deploying a comprehensive LMS across campus requires financial investment, though there are open source platforms available for free. Either paid or free, implementing and customizing the platform to suit the institution’s requirements takes effort. Not a lot of institutions can afford many of them squeeze out resources to support other priorities other than investing in LMS.

Culture. The most often overlooked barrier for innovation is the culture. We could have all the resources in place and still lagged way behind from a cutting-edge education the students deserve. Resistance to change due to potential risks and satisfaction of results from the old system are some of the most underrated hurdles to advance.

Building a resilient education system

Building a resilient system can take institutions to a disruption-proof future. But how this resiliency is built?

Invest in technology. A sluggish pace of innovation across universities marked by traditional teaching approaches, outdated classrooms, and the bureaucratic system requires technological innovation for institutions to be flexible against disruption. Schools should prioritize tech innovation as it enables them to embrace and augment digital solutions with in-person classroom or online learning. For instance, institutions can take advantage of 5G technology to improve efficiency and enhanced learning experience.

Collaboration among stakeholders. Improved integration between stakeholders including government, private sectors, education professionals, and students should take place to deploy effective alternatives in times of crisis. For example, a concession is reached to utilize digital solutions. The ability of technology to connect people, processes, and information in real-time is a critical component to enable resiliency across the system. But if digital solutions are not embedded in all collaboration efforts, the outcome may be compromised.

Furthermore, when stakeholders have separate goals, inefficiencies begin to surface as objectives are fragmented rather than synchronized. Integration makes people work together in a similar fashion to produce a common, powerful solution.

Coronavirus reveals how resilient and flexible our education system in responding to its aftermath. It amplifies the institution’s vulnerabilities to severe consequences including the need to switch to digital platforms quickly.

Coronavirus reminds universities how prepared and innovative their systems are to outlast a pandemic’s fallout without too much damage to their operations. Those that adopt the right technology along with a creative mindset survive better than those who do not.

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About the author

Marvin Bunyag, CPIM

Founder, ExploreSCM

Marvin is an APICS – CPIM professional bringing 6+ years of international experience in supply chain logistics, technology, and manufacturing operations in the USA and the Philippines. Marvin served in several supply chain roles for companies including Kohler, Hood Packaging Corporation, and Unifrutti Philippines. He received his MS in Operations and Supply Management from the University of Wisconsin in USA and a BS in Commerce at the University of the Immaculate Conception in the Philippines.

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EVENTS

Davao, Philippines

April 23-25, 2020

Manila, Philippines

July 9-11, 2020

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