.The economic recession caused by the pandemic is expected to severely affect many spheres including higher education. As income sources are dwindling, many students can find it difficult to proceed with their academic journeys. At the same time, the shift towards the remote format inevitably raises the question of whether the current costs of education can be reduced by implementing modern technologies, getting rid of unnecessary physical facilities, and taking advantage of education technology.
Let’s consider some improvements that can be made in education to reduce costs.
Yes, we have all heard John Carmack criticising the slow advancement of ‘hardware VR’. Steaming from the high costs of gaming rigs and headsets capable of running the latest VR games. However, educational applications do not require crystal-clear graphics and high frame rates.
Moreover, cardboard smartphone holders can transform your device into a part of a VR headset. Plenty capable of running many software visualisation products. The opportunities for educators are limitless.
- You can build visual demonstrations of geometric and stereometric concepts
- Work on 3D visualisations of your AutoCAD drawings with your teacher as an engineering student.
- You can visit a virtual classroom allowing you to see the lecturer and communicate with them and your peers within the same digital space simultaneously.
Effectively, smartphone-based VR solutions can allow universities to provide high-quality education to any student. Most people already own the equipment necessary and do not need to invest in expensive and cumbersome devices so everyone saves on the costs of education.
Electronic Readers and Mobile-Friendly Resources
Let’s face it, textbooks are expensive. With the average price of an academic book amounting to $203, few students can afford to own them rather than borrow them from the university library. After COVID-19, more people are considering the shift towards a fully digital learning experience.
It only seems logical to provide access to all course materials and reading lists via specialised electronic readers and tablets. Of course, with specific copyright arrangements made by universities.
These devices are already owned by many students, which means that the shift towards this format can be quick and seamless. This education technology also speeds up the completion of academic assignments. Copying quotes and ideas from an electronic source is much easier than typing them on your PC from a printed book.
Sustaining your well-being in modern times has become progressively harder. Especially due to the deteriorating state of many economies and the increasing future uncertainty. Hence, many students have part-time or full-time jobs and lack the time to sit at their PCs and watch ‘formal’ lectures. This is especially relevant for asynchronous information delivery where the lecturers simply read out their notes without interacting with the audience.
Podcasts to the rescue. The increasing popularity of this information delivery format is explained by its ultimate convenience. You can listen to them while driving to work, doing your household chores or waiting for someone. Higher convenience means that you can allocate more otherwise wasted time to your personal development on a daily basis.
The universities adopting this idea and investing in the professional recordings of their key courses can well become industry leaders in the next couple of years. Podcasts are also a perfect way to sell ‘full’ educational programmes by giving the uncertain prospects a sample of what they can receive if they join full-time.
What Are the Key Barriers to Digital Education?
While these elements seem like a good idea for creating a win-win situation, many universities and educators feel reluctant to implement them even under the current lockdown. There exist multiple sound reasons for doing this within the scope of the current business model adopted by many UK and US universities.
- The shift towards the fully online format will raise questions regarding the reduction of tuition costs, which may not be interesting to universities.
- Many tutors do not keep lecture materials in electronic form or lack the skills necessary to coordinate online teaching sessions.
- The conversion of all existing programmes into digital and mobile-friendly formats will require substantial investments on part of the universities.
- These innovative solutions may not be able to overcome the decades-long distrust for e-learning as opposed to traditional classroom learning.
The main problem is the need to invest a lot of resources in a potentially beneficial initiative without any short-term gains. Many universities have decided to watch these developments from the sidelines because of the global economic instability and the lack of certainty.
Is There a Universal Solution?
There is global uncertainty forcing universities to become pioneers of new educational formats. While also demanding that they cut costs instead of increasing them to cover additional expenses. This is an extremely problematic situation that requires thorough planning and a highly cautious conversion strategy. Here are some points to consider for minimising risks.
For most universities, it is possible to convert several highly demanded courses into an online format. This task would require weeks of work and can be easily outsourced to an external writing company for greater convenience. Creating high-quality presentations, audio materials, and e-learning solutions is a good place to start.
Measure the Demand
The key question for any university is whether the new format can be popular with local and international students. While the COVID-19 situation makes digital learning a compulsory measure, these practices can retain their relevance in the future. While every university is different, it will be necessary to experiment with solutions to identify demand levels and successes.
Consider the Economies of Scale
The business model of many universities is based upon their premium positioning as a provider of expensive and limited services. They are reluctant to shift to the online format due to the fear of becoming a ‘mass market’ brand. As well as the potential for decreasing the credibility of the diplomas they issue. However, decreasing the costs of university programmes through the utilisation of online instruments can allow universities to:
- Attract more talented students from developing countries with limited resources;
- Increase the convenience of education for working students and adult learners;
- Expand their international reach and compensate for the extra costs through economies of scale.