A View on Education in 2021
The tough year of 2020 is behind us and it is time to look ahead at what 2021 will bring us. The expectation is that the Coronavirus will yet again have a huge impact on the upcoming year. With the start of the year being in the middle of a lockdown, it seems the situation can only improve from here. What can we expect this year and what can educational institutions do to prepare themselves for the challenges 2021 will bring?
Online education remains important in the midst of this lockdown. Educational institutions have come from far, improving the quality of online education significantly. Students no longer feel as if they are watching a very expensive version of Netflix as they did in April. In most cases, they are able to receive a decent education, even from a distance. The biggest challenge remains practical education, which is hard to replace with online education.
In February a new group of students is expected to start their studies, which they need to be prepared for. For them, it is a brand new step which coincides with insecurity the current situation is causing. Educational institutions will need to help new students as best as they can, by engaging with them from the moment they apply. This is a situation where being able to combine online and offline activities plays a crucial part.
The overall student engagement has been a challenge for educational institutions since before the coronavirus, but it has become even more challenging ever since. We cannot stress enough the importance of student engagement during the first few months of 2021. Students remain isolated and want to be engaged as much as possible. It is up to educational institutions to engage with students and make them part of the institution.
During the past year, the pressure on student mental health has increased significantly. The lack of social activities and contacts, the changes in their studies, missing out on placements and internships, and the financial insecurity are the biggest causes. While increasing student engagement is already part of the solution, students experiencing mental health problems need to be actively supported. Educational institutions need to be aware of the problems students face and be able to support those students that need it the most.
Back to normal?
With the vaccin finally being available, the hope is that somewhere this year, things can go ‘back to normal’. The question is: will we ever really go back to normal? While the crisis caused by the coronavirus has been a dark and tough period for everyone, everyone has had to adapt. Some of these changes have been positive which raises the question of whether or not some things will be changed permanently. At this point in time the expectation is that it will be possible to go back to normal in the new academic year. That means educational institutions will need to use the first half of 2021 to figure what changes they would like to keep and how they want to organise the new academic year.