The current pandemic is not only seen affecting the health of the citizens in the country but is also seen hindering various industries and shaking them to their roots. The national lockdown and the ascending health crisis were striking the education of the students as well, with their universities being shut and their syllabi stranded, until the industry decided to initiate a revolution instead. Reinventing their radicals and making a conscious choice to grow even in the time of crisis, the universities decided to digitalise the sector.
The educational reform in India in the COVID-19 era seems to be a live example of how need truly the mother of invention or reinvention is, in this scenario. Allowing educational institutions to adopt online learning and infuse a virtual study culture, the pandemic is already steering the sector forward with technological innovation and advancements.
Impact on international education
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities have worked diligently and creatively to bring students back to the United States to complete their academic programs online. By collaborating closely with education abroad program providers and international university partners, institutions have adapted academic standards and practices to accommodate an unprecedented number of students whose spring and academic-year education abroad programs were cut short.
Institutions are very likely to be wary of restarting education abroad in the way that it has been practised up to now. In fact, at this moment, institutions have an opportunity to understand and conceive of education abroad in new ways that can continue to make it a high-impact practice.
Before this crisis, many of the study abroad programs used online learning to deliver course content, connect students studying at different program sites and guide and assess student learning. The pandemic has made it necessary for institutions and organizations to be even more creative in applying online learning for students who have returned to the United States. Programs have created course component videos of sites that would have been explored in person yet are now being introduced online.
Some summer 2020 education abroad programs are offering virtual internships in which students in the U.S. complete an internship with a host company or organization located abroad. Such practices are expanding the education abroad “experience.”
COVID-19 makes every place outside our homes a risk, even domestic campuses. And even after the crisis abates, students, their families and their institutions may be more comfortable with the idea of remaining in the U.S. than learning in another country. A growing number of institutions now offer domestic study-away experiences that can fulfil goals similar to those traditionally associated with education abroad.
When intentionally structured and incorporated into an educational program, encounters and engagements with diverse communities in America can transform students, opening their minds to different perspectives and enhancing their ability to interact with people different from themselves. Such programs are likely to become more popular with students in a post-COVID-19 age.
A major facet of education abroad over the past 20 years has been a significant increase in faculty involvement, especially through faculty-led programming abroad. The future of education abroad will continue to be faculty-led, but not only in terms of faculty serving as directors or teachers of programs. The thousands of students who have returned from overseas this spring have challenged faculty program leaders to continue education abroad learning in new ways.
The resulting innovations are informed by cultural resources and viewpoints and often involve cross-border collaboration and a more global approach to disciplines. Perhaps more than any other past situation, grant programs or efforts by higher education associations, this pandemic is pushing faculty to think about a global curriculum. That will probably result in education abroad becoming embedded into courses offered on campuses in new ways
The COVID-19 scenario
The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted the importance of education abroad. We need to educate our students about the interconnectedness of the world to combat xenophobia and isolationist mind-sets. Education abroad can be reinvented for a time when the meaning of borders is changing, and when the world and the planet need globally educated citizens. Institutions should and will take up this challenge in different ways according to their distinct missions.
It is very likely that a spectrum of education abroad learning options will be offered, from classroom-based to virtual to domestic study away to traditional in-country education abroad. The commonality across institutions, however, will be less focus on geography and more emphasis on encounters and engagements with a difference, whether that be in virtual, domestic or international settings.