Many are still very unclear as to what post-COVID-19 will look like, how long it will be around, or whether we will have to work with this disruptive crisis forever. At this point, nobody knows.
One thing is for sure: It has unprecedented implications for all. As it relates to higher education, people are still thirsting for knowledge, and trainers still have to do their jobs. Students will continue to seek qualifications, and trainees still expect that their preferred courses of study will be available.
Therefore, it is inevitable that we will all have to adapt. Educators and institutions must consider how current students and future generations will adapt to the new normal, the new way of learning, the latest methodologies, the latest delivery, the new curriculum, and the like. Physical distancing has impacted everything so far and stands to do so for some time.
The question is, what are the real implications this new phenomenon and its attendant ramifications will have on higher education and learning?
Already there has been a move away from 100% classroom sessions, not only in Barbados but abroad.
Due to the natural fear of contagion and the protocols that several governments have put in place to reduce the spread of the virus, students are opting for more online and remote learning.
Also, administrators have had to institute smaller classes per cohort or, more specifically, per session to allow for physical distancing.
Despite these shifts to online instructional delivery, new physical distancing requirements cause disruptions to campus life. Regardless, students and other stakeholders expect to invest in higher learning institutions, and they both demand and deserve to have confidence that the education quality will not decline.
The financial implication should also be considered, and some students have opted out not only of online but in completing the courses of study in the immediate future. As a consequence, plants are now seeing less and less revenue in their projections because of these shifts. This shifting landscape begs the question – Will all students have access to postsecondary opportunities in this new normal? Also, what assurances can we give that these opportunities will be of the necessary quality, which will lead to a meaningful credential?
At the Barbados Accreditation Council (BAC), the national quality assurance body for higher education, we must stay vigilant on oversight while focusing on the available structural, policy, and technical resources of the institutions. This objective will be critical to ensuring that current and future post-secondary students still have the necessary opportunities to further personal success ambitions.
I commit to continuing our work in institutional oversight and quality assurance. We must innovate as we observe the significant challenges on our various stakeholders. Despite COVID-19, BAC will continue to assure educational quality while continuously protecting students’ interests.
Lisa Gale (Mrs)
Barbados Accreditation Council