On the evening of April 24th, Beijing time, a Special Dialogue co-organized by Tsinghua University and UNESCO was held online. With the theme of “Online Education in COVID-19 Response and Beyond”, the dialogue explored the challenges facing higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared university case studies, best practice, and experience in online education.
The following is a selection of views shared by the Special Dialogue's guest speakers.
Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim, Vice-Chancellor, University of Malaya: Some of the challenges posed by online learning include creating alternative assessment methods for the practical aspects of courses, inclusivity, as well as ensuring the quality of the programs we offer. Alongside the implementation of fully online teaching and learning for the remainder of the semester, UM has been collaborating with other institutions and networks on e-learning initiatives and through the OpenCourseWare (OCW) consortium. What I would like to put forward to the forum is to contemplate how online learning will be integrated into curriculum design and delivery as we move forward into the new “normal”. There is a need for universities to seriously consider how we can continue to develop students’ skills and attributes if the majority of the approach is online, when there is still great value to face to face and social interactions on campus.
Stephen Kiama, Vice-Chancellor, University of Nairobi: Online teaching is particularly virtual teaching which is face to face, and contributes to lifelong learning. Throughout this process, we have encountered and successfully solved problems with online availability, testing and grading, and a lack in online teaching facilities by keeping an open line of communication with all our students, faculty and staff, and the executive board.
Andrei Rudskoi, Rector, Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University: We granted free access to nearly one hundred of our online courses e-hosted on the university’s internal online education platform—Open Polytech. We have provided partner access for scientific and engineering projects and labs and created a distance workshop to reach the basics and show the application process of additive technologies using real life examples. We must make digital transformations and always be open for change to succeed in developing online education.
Jeffrey Lehman, Vice Chancellor, NYU Shanghai: Zoom and similar synchronous tools have clear benefits, but they can trigger "Zoom fatigue". It is therefore significant that, as our video shows, some of our professors are producing dynamic active-learning experiences with asynchronous tools. All universities must continue to think creatively about remote-learning pedagogy and collaborate together to derive maximum pedagogic benefits from these exciting new tools.
Michaela Martin, Programme Specialist, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning: To succeed in developing online education, it's important to think about the technology-based crisis and keep in mind the issues of the validation and the quality assurance dimensions of learning. This pandemic offers the perfect opportunity to shift traditional boundaries and to think about a new key elements for successful online teaching and learning as well as flexible validation and quality assurance for alternate study modes. Also, quality assurance agencies and higher education institutions must reach an agreement on what accepted higher learning is and how to validate into quality assurance.
Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge: Our teaching and assessment methods must be open to change. We must maintain quality and ensure excellence of our students. The change so far has been from face-to-face delivery to remote delivery. We have some online courses but the next step is to really engage with blended learning and to ensure that where it is appropriate to do so our courses can be delivered online.
Aloys Krieg, Vice-Rector for Teaching, RWTH Aachen University: We must ensure the quality of all our courses. We want to evaluate these classes during the semester, and the end of the semester, and then we have to decide which ones will be taught again in the next semester and which formats need improvements and which formats should not be taught again this way. Also, we must use learning analytics to see how the different formats show different results on the knowledge of the students at the end of the semester.
ZHANG Yu, Vice Dean, Institute of Education, Tsinghua University: There are two main differences between online education and classroom education—specific teaching and learning behaviors. The only disadvantage with online education is student-to-student practice in class. We all believe that, after the pandemic, we won’t go back to face-to-face education. A more blended learning space will be designed and quality governance will be the most important measure for successful online education.
Ganbat Danaa, Director of the Open Education Center, Mongolian University Science and Technology: We launched the MOOC and organized several training workshops and provide technology support and guidance to all higher education institutions in Mongolia, and acquired some success with practice and experience to develop open textbooks, MOOCs and smartphone applications. Our lecturers have been working hard to give lectures with light board technology in both asynchronous and synchronous online teaching and learning styles.
Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering, MIT; Honorary Professor, Tsinghua University; Founding Interim Provost, Tsinghua Southeast Asia Center: Resilience of the university can come about as a result of robustness or adaptability. In this era, the universities that will prosper will be adaptable and have a rate of change sufficient to keep up with society. Our current students are mobile digital natives. They can teach us about their knowledge and skills with the digital world, and we must embrace that fact.
Getachew Engida, Co-President，China-Africa Leadership Development Institute (CALDI), Tsinghua University, Former Deputy DG, UNESCO: The science, technology and innovation to deliver accessible quality education for all is available, and we must use this pandemic as the key to unlock this potential. Online education may be a catalyst for wider access to education. We must carefully examine the content of what is being taught online in the developing world. Leadership at every level and in every sector including in the education sector plays a critical role, and we must build capacity leadership skills and managerial competencies.
(Reporter: Guo Lili，Editor: Celina Jiang, Yuan Qianyu, John Olbrich)