Calm amidst the storm: reflections and predictions for higher education

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Purpose – The COVID-19 pandemic has caused enormous pain and suffering,
with the impact on health and daily life having been catastrophic. The impact on
industry and professions has been severe, with many seeing widespread
redundancy and closures. Although there have been silver linings — in the shape
of resilience and adaptations, for example — the disruptions from COVID-19
have mostly been negative. Higher education (HE) is no exception, with many
HE professionals losing their jobs, and others enduring stress and hardship to
adapt to the emergency delivery styles of online teaching and learning (T&L).
Individuals (and their institutions), under enormous stress, have had to quickly
reevaluate their skills and strengths, addressing immediate and future challenges. This paper, drawing from over 20 years of HE experience, offers reflections on pre-pandemic approaches to HE practice, and predictions and analyses of postpandemic HE life.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper is structured around reflections on
various aspects of life for an academic professional, before and during the
COVID-19 lockdown. Reflective practice, guided by autoethnography, and
critical analyses of relevant literature form the main methodologies. The paper
also includes (and addresses) informal and focus-group discussion surrounding
the pandemic-related HE disruptions. )
Findings – In the face of increasing uncertainty, with so much stress at the
individual, institution, and even sector level, it is easy to understand the pervasive pessimism reported throughout HE. However, although COVID-19 has changed HE, many of these changes had actually been predicted, and even advocated, before the epidemic. The COVID-19 online and blended T&L, microlearning, expanded use of OER, and many other innovations can be seen not only as emergency teaching strategies, but as opportunities for HE practice and professionalism to evolve. This paper highlights opportunities and other
potentially positive outcomes from the current COVID-19 challenges.
Originality/value/implications – While many countries are still in lockdown,
some (including China, the context for the author) are emerging and acclimating
to the ‘new normal.’ Many of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 may actually
have simply been expedited evolutions that many had anticipated, and even
advocated. In addition to continuing reflective practice, and Kaizen-like (re)-
evaluations, there are several clear opportunities now that HE educators and
administrators should seize. In spite of the currently abounding stress and
pessimism, there is reason for hope and optimism about HE’s future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2021)
EditorsEva Tsang, Kam Cheong Li, Philips Wang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439683
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventInternational Conference on Open and Innovative Education - Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Duration: 5 Jul 2021 → …


ConferenceInternational Conference on Open and Innovative Education
Abbreviated titleICOIE
CityHong Kong
Period5/07/21 → …
Internet address


  • COVID-19
  • Microlearning
  • Mixed Reality
  • New Normal
  • Open Education Resource (OER)
  • Professional Development


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