Uncertain U Hero

Universities have played a key part in the fight against COVID-19, providing thousands of medical and nursing student volunteers, supplying specialist equipment and on-site facilities. But the tertiary education sector has been hit hard by the crisis. An industry that typically generates more than £95 billion for the UK economy and over 940,000 full-time equivalent jobs, universities and colleges now face the challenge of adapting their processes and how they engage with students, leveraging technology wherever they can to continue to support both students and employees.

Impact of COVID-19 on the university landscape

The pandemic has inflicted rapid, unprecedented change in tertiary education, with universities and colleges shifting their complete focus to online curriculums. Their aim is to continue to deliver the same personal service for students who continue to invest effort, time and money into their education.

With the temporary closure of schools, colleges and universities across the UK, those students preparing to take A-level exams only a few months ago now await an alternative, unprecedented means of evaluation. With results still to be released, students are right to feel uncertainty, compounding an already-anxious time.

A new clearing procedure

This uncertainty is extended all the way to the clearing process, traditionally run by university academics all together, receiving calls from potential candidates, which has been completely repurposed and extended until October.

Academic staff will have to manage the process either remotely from home, working dedicated shifts to ensure that enough individuals are logged on, or by spreading people across university campuses to adhere to social distancing.

The challenges colleges and universities face

For 2020 recruits, campus tours are obviously out of the question, with virtual online tours already starting to replace them.

Meeting applicants face to face is also not feasible with the social distancing and "Stay Alert" message in place, so colleges and universities are reverting to video conferencing technology. As a head of IT from one college explained,

"When the national lockdown meant we had to postpone meeting our prospective students for the next year, Britannic provided us with the means to engage with applicants by extending their online meetings facility using Mitel MiTeam Meetings—at no cost and without fuss—in a way we couldn't otherwise manage by ourselves."

Does online education pose an opportunity or a threat?

Prior to COVID-19, online learning played a relatively small role in higher education, but institutions were seeing a natural increase. In the UK, nearly 30% of all students in higher education settings were participating in at least one distance course. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of online learning, so colleges and universities need to ensure the technology they put in place has the flexibility to scale to meet current and future demand.

Technological access to education

The last few months have proved that institutions must ensure ongoing accessibility of student learning, engagement and experience remotely. Lecturers, faculty members and students have had to demonstrate resilience by adjusting rapidly.

Technology has played its part, facilitating the admissions and application process via digital events, virtual tours and virtual interviews. Online spaces have been created so that students can remotely attend classes, access resources, webinars, and group discussions.

To succeed, access to real-time collaboration solutions and video conferencing will be increasingly critical to students and the colleges and universities. MiTeam Meetings not only has the potential to facilitate the admissions process, but it could also enable faculty members and lecturers to schedule virtual classes in advance or set up impromptu, seamless video meetings to get the most out of every interaction.

Find out how you can improve your online education experience by contacting your Mitel representative.

get great content like this weekly
Ready to talk to sales? Contact us.