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How universities may change forever

  • Published at 08:45 pm May 12th, 2020
Opinion Lead
Would it be so bad if this was the new normal? BIGSTOCK

Scaling up online courses may reshape universities for the better

The corona crisis has gripped the entire world. There is no particular end in sight for this crisis, as the total number of deaths keeps growing every day. All our institutions are changing their practices due to this crisis, and the universities are not outside of this trend.

For most of the universities in the world, the coronavirus hit came right in the middle of an ongoing semester. While all the public universities in Bangladesh declared a public holiday at the onset of the crisis, some private universities have kept their classes ongoing through online courses. 

This way, the coronavirus epidemic could not stop the development of that semester. Most universities in the United States did the same.

While there are some caveats to this system, including disadvantages for students who have gone to their village homes and do not have access to high-speed internet and are lagging because of it, this system of online courses could change the way universities operate in today’s world, especially through websites like Coursera.

Coursera provides Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for anyone in the world with high-speed internet access through videos and online tasks and tools. Many universities in the world even offer online degrees through this platform. If the coronavirus epidemic does not end by the end of September, it is possible that even more universities would join this platform or other similar platforms to provide massively open online courses to any willing individual.

This is what university education should be like -- anyone willing to learn should be able to do it. Our current global system indeed stands against it. For example, there is a lack of access to the internet in remote areas, but still, the fact that universities are still being able to continue their courses despite the virus epidemic that is redefining human existence on the planet, surely shows us that MOOC or Massively Open Online Courses are the way forward. 

And if we may add certificates and degrees from top universities, we have a surefire recipe of success.

As such, if you are stuck at home this corona season and are looking for things to do, joining one of these courses may be your best investment. In return for your time, you would receive the guidance of the best professors from top universities, and will be able to interact with a global peer group that is highly motivated and skilled. 

This global community is something to be learned from, as they are all suffering from the same problem we are. How they are transforming these bad times into productivity is what we can learn the most from them.

And if in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic, the universities change in a manner that accommodates more MOOCs, we are probably headed for a far superior future than our present day. 

If that happens, we will not need physical universities at all at some point, and all education will be decentralized and academic elitism will be crushed to the ground. 

That is a future I want to see, and the advancement of the MOOC sites in these corona-ridden times gives us hope of that future taking shape.

Anupam Debashis Roy is an editor and organizer of Muktiforum.

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