Over the past two year, the higher education sector has faced a lot of challenges. Due to the pandemic, campuses were closed for almost twenty months. Indeed, humanities and social sciences departments are the least affected. Most of the courses run pretty smoothly online. In 2022, the world is returned to normal – no more mask mandatory, resume of international travel, and face-to-face teaching becomes available again. This article will discuss how the humanities and social sciences disciplines will look like in the post-COVID era, in terms of teaching and learning in higher education.
More choices in online learning
First and foremost, students will have more choices for course selection. Online learning has been debatable prior to 2020. Indeed, distance learning has started to become popular before the pandemic. However, some education providers were still arguing that it would affect the teaching quality and learning experience. Nonetheless, institutions were forced to shift their teaching online because of the pandemic. Most of them have benefited – with more enrolment, increase of insufficiency, and more importantly, profitable.
Therefore, more courses will be available online. This will become even trendier in humanities and social sciences disciplines, where face-to-face learning is not essential. Students will therefore have more choices when selecting their choices: costs, duration, difficulty, teaching mode, reputation etc. Universities will need to compete with each other for this emerging market. And with more competition in the market, the quality of online courses will improve.
Relatively, there will be more casual job opportunities for online teaching. They can apply jobs overseas, as on-site teaching has become unnecessary; and therefore could focus on their research in their hometown. This is a good news for PhD graduates who need a job to survive and feed themselves in their early career.
Dual delivery mode
Although remote learning has become more popular, universities still insist to provide the option of onsite learning. This is because according to surveys, local students prefer in-class interaction to enhance their experience. Many teachers and students find difficulty to have an open discussion on Zoom. Because of the environment setting, it relies on active participation. It also does not encourage multitasking – people have to do the same thing, at the same time. People often lose patience when engagement in class decrease. Not to mention with all the technical issues.
Therefore, the discussion of dual teaching delivery mode has been circulated around during the pandemic. That is, universities should provide both face-to-face and online learning at the same time. It is possible, technically, as it provides more choices for students to choose their learning preference. However, it will increase the burden for lecturers.
Most academic board members simply assume that dual delivery mode is not an issue, as the syllabus are more or less similar. However, because of the classroom setting, lecturers need to think about how to deliver the content differently. For example, they may include more student activities in face-to-face lectures, because interaction is easier.
Notwithstanding, dual delivery mode will likely to be trend. The only thing that lecturers may do is to request their departments hiring more positions to share their teaching load.
Change of class setting
Speaking of the return of on-site teaching, some tutors or lecturers may need to encounter some changes in the classroom. The most obvious one has to be face mask mandatory. Some universities still insist that all people should wear masks indoor, with the exception of the speaker. However, in humanities and social sciences, we often need to speak and share our opinions during tutorials. As a result, the face mask policy may be a hinder of learning experience.
In addition, it is still unclear of what happen if a person in class catches COVID. During the pandemic, people can simply work from home. But when on-site learning resumes, universities may expect some kind of attendance requirement, which can be affected when the whole class needs to quarantine. In a worse situation, if the lecturer is unable to teach face-to-face, the whole class will be affected. To date, university guideline is still unclear.
Even though face-to-face teaching resumes and that dual delivery becomes more popular, it is still unlikely to have ‘dual assessment types’ in the same subject. According to university policy, this is to implement fairness in assessment. That is, students learning online and students learning on-site should receive similar assessment tasks.
This seems not a big issue to humanities and social sciences disciplines. Some people assume that all we do are essays. Indeed, long essay assessment is still important to the disciplines, but we are exploring other assessment types. Presentation, portfolio, video clip, group work have become more popular prior to the pandemic.
However, because of dual teaching delivery mode, it becomes more difficult to have these different assessments. This is because some students will be more advantages than other. For example, group work would be easier for students who come to campus; students who enrol online would have advantages in online quizzes because they are more familiar with the environment.
Thus, departments will adopt a relatively conservative approach in exploring assessment types. Boring, dreadful research essays will continue to be the mainstream in the discipline.
People change their learning styles over time. We have experienced this during the pandemic. Now entering the post-COVID era, we will have another revolution in teaching and learning in humanities and social sciences. This is nothing to surprise about. Instead, let us explore better and more suitable practice teaching methods in the disciplines together.