Higher Education in the First Year of COVID-19: Thoughts and Perspectives for the Future

Stefano Cesco, Vincenzo Zara, Alberto F. De Toni, Paolo Lugli, Giovanni Betta, Alexander C.O. Evans, Guido Orzes


In the last year a new virus (SARS‑CoV‑2) and the disease caused by it (COVID-19) has quickly spread around the world, leading the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency and, then, a global pandemic status. The strategies adopted by many countries to reduce the impact of the pandemic were mainly based on social distancing rules and on stay-at-home measures or lockdowns. These strategies had severe disruptive consequences on many sectors, including all levels of education. While the “traditional” (face-to-face) Higher Education (HE) system was unprepared for the lockdown (e.g., no plans for a massive shift to online teaching were available/ready), it reacted in an extremely quick and effective way, replacing face-to-face teaching with online teaching. While COVID-19 has been extremely challenging for education, the experience has undoubtedly provided positive inputs for the digitalization of the HE system. The question is however, if whether after the COVID-19 emergency everything will go back to the previous situation or instead if the pandemic has irreversibly changed HE. While we are still in the middle of the crisis, it is in our view beneficial to start to reflect on the challenges and open issues that emerged during this period and the lessons learned for the “new normal” (as it is often referred to). In this conceptual paper we seek to start this discussion by focusing on the following relevant aspects that should be considered to succeed in the digital transformation: broadband network infrastructure and hardware devices; e-learning software; organization of teaching activities; pedagogical issues; diversity and inclusivity; and a number of other issues. We conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic will irreversibly change HE and probably for the better.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijhe.v10n3p285


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Copyright (c) 2021 Stefano Cesco, Vincenzo Zara, Alberto F. De Toni, Paolo Lugli, Giovanni Betta, Alexander C.O. Evans, Guido Orzes

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email: ijhe@sciedupress.com

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