University education is in crisis. While COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the delivery of online lessons, in doing so it has raised questions about the primacy of campus-based learning.

Both deliveries have to justify the extraordinary amount of money that students are paying and the enormous amount of work that parents are doing to guarantee their kids a bright future. Scott Galloway, amongst others, has brilliantly led discussions on what the future of education looks like in terms of universities and  teaching faculties.

Let me nail my colours to the mast and declare that campuses are here to stay – but they will be altered institutions.

I want to take a granular approach and instead of looking at the future of education from top-down, I want to look at it from the single course perspective.

Fundamentally there are three types of courses:

Firstly there are courses that can be taught 100 percent online: where the teacher is imparting very enduring skills that don’t change over time. What my teacher in Maths 101 was teaching 10 years ago is pretty much what he is teaching now. Ditto for microeconomics. Insendi can help you with a brilliant platform for these and other subjects.

The second course category are those requiring constant interaction between students and teachers, and among students themselves. 100 percent offline is required. Knowledge is co-created through discussion and collaboration. For example, it’s difficult to teach culture and leadership fully online: leadership is more than theory, it’s observing amazing people and appreciating nuances in how they think and behave.

Thirdly there is the blended classroom: courses such as Strategy, Supply Chain Management, International Business are examples of courses that can accommodate both online and in-person teaching methods.

That is because they are composed of three components of knowledge which require mixed teaching pedagogy.

Component 1: online. Classical theories and tools that have stood the test of time.

 Whether it’s a 101 course or an MBA course, they often have similar degrees of depth on these tools. You can find amazing scholars that have shared their content online, Melissa Schilling’s videos on value chain analysis is a good example. The work of such scholars can be shared across degrees not only within one university, but also across universities. I really don’t see how my time is well spent replicating work that is already available, free and at the best possible level.

Component 2: offline (or small online groups if unavoidable)

Application of knowledge, for example case study discussion. This is similar to the type 2 course above. Knowledge is co-created through discussion and interaction. Some of this can happen via  video conferencing with small groups, but in person is best. Observing body language, facial expression, tone of voice is a significant component as to how we evaluate people, learn and make decisions. All of these contribute to how well and how much you remember things (or don’t). The time that we now spend offline with 80 students, can be spent offline with 20 students, by running the discussion multiple times during the day with small groups of students. More effort for the lecturer but better learning for the students.

Component 3: expert knowledge, offline (or small online groups in case of emergency)

Transmission of knowledge that comes from the academic’s specific field of research. For example, for me this is behavioural strategy and that’s the kind of flavour I like to give for at least one third of my subject. It’s not the basic framework that you can learn online or from the very best scholars, it’s the lens that I use to understand firms’ strategic interaction, make predictions about options and performance. It’s something that evolves week after week.  It derives from a theoretical perspective that is not yet present in textbooks but rather is unpacked in class by the lecturer. It’s about picking up a piece of news from the newspaper today and discussing it in class tomorrow through a lens developed by the lecturer. True, you can do it over a video session in case of emergency, but it is the physical interaction that gives the learning a boost. 

So I believe campuses are here to stay but we need to focus on those subjects that can mix online and off-line in a clever way, while leveraging some great resources created by smart scholars that are available online. I see a future of collaboration across degrees and universities for the creation of some fundamental, shareable material combined with competition around the individual strengths of particular scholars. It is a future of online/offline, across degrees and universities co-opetition.

Read the original article.

This is part of a series of insights related to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on business.

Image: Nathan Dumlao 

Dr Massimo Garbuio is an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney. He's passionate about helping students and business leaders become master strategists.

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