Crisis: Danger-Opportunity for Universities

Updated: May 2, 2020

Prof LIM Cher Ping

Chair Professor of Learning Technologies and Innovation

Faculty of Education and Human Development

The Education University of Hong Kong

Online technologies have always been perceived by many universities as an enabler to enhance their students’ access to quality teaching and learning and to develop their students’ lifelong learning competencies (Education 2030). These universities have invested significantly in terms of technological infrastructure, hardware and teaching and learning resources. However, their return of investment with respect to education equity and quality has often been low due to the small percentage of their teachers implementing online learning to engage students in their courses. The university teachers may not have the capacity or may not see the need to plan for and implement quality online lessons.

Although the university closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the access of students to quality teaching and learning, it has made distance and online learning an indispensable part of higher education response to the pandemic. To ensure that student learning never stops, university teachers have to engage in online teaching and learning and university leaders have to drive and support online teaching and learning. The Chinese character of “crisis” - 危机 - best illustrates how a crisis that poses as a threat (danger 危) could be turned into an opportunity (机). This unprecedented crisis has provided opportunities for universities to build their institutional capacity to drive and support online learning, and for teachers to build their capacity to plan for and implement online lessons.

At the same time, universities must align this urgent response of distance and online learning to the pandemic to their vision and longer term strategies of enhancing students access to quality higher education and lifelong learning for all. By doing so, universities are then more likely to emerge stronger from the crisis and transform themselves to be more relevant to the society they serve.