Meeting the Challenges Ahead

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I took on the responsibility of developing the institutional vision for online education at India’s #1 private university, O.P. Jindal Global University.

Like most universities, we were surprised by the sudden shock, and at the time, our university had no formal online education offerings. Our faculty had limited, or no, experience teaching online, and we lacked the technology infrastructure or in-house production facilities to develop high-quality online courses.

Personally, while I had experience developing several online MOOCs, leading this initiative required me to learn a whole new set of skills and competencies on the fly.

It became clear that to develop a portfolio of high-quality online education offerings, we all urgently needed to upskill and embrace significant change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted workplaces worldwide, forcing a change in how we work, communicate with each other, and learn on the job. That need for rapid change has been uniquely acute for universities rapidly shifting to remote teaching and working.

While universities’ have mostly achieved operational continuity, the recent changes have created new challenges and demands on faculty and staff. 

For example, many universities face the challenge of keeping students engaged in a digital environment, while others face difficulty maintaining administrative staff productively in remote work environments.

With most university faculty and staff now working from home, many have been uncertain about the future, anxiety has risen, and days have become longer.

Meanwhile, the demand for universities to maintain high quality has never been higher. New modes of online learning need quality assurance; technology delivery needs quality improvements to achieve academic excellence.

How can faculty and staff meet these challenges without adding to further anxiety? 

Professional development seems critical here. But while the internet is full of new forms of online personal and professional development learning opportunities, how to know which one to choose? The options readily available are often not tailored to the higher education context or appropriately priced for your faculty or staff.  Further, faculty and staff members often feel they do not have the “extra” time available for personal or professional skill development.

It highlights the need for professional development courses to be relevant and developed by seasoned professionals with the right expertise.

Professional development that is well-designed, self-guided, short, and available online is the need of the hour. With more faculty and staff getting the skills and competencies they need to address these new challenges, the silver lining is that universities may find themselves better prepared for digital transformation and hopefully less anxious for the future.

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