How viruses and violence will change the way we deliver education

Ideas

How viruses and violence will change the way we deliver education

Teaching via online platforms is set to replace the face-to-face model entirely, for one simple – economic – reason

Columnist

Two crises, one local and one global, point to a very different future for education on the planet. In SA, the historic levels of violence on campuses in 2015-16 forced universities to turn from face-to-face teaching to online learning options. The continuing levels of violence on campuses in 2020 have once again raised the question: is it time to radically alter the means for delivering education to millions of university students?

For protesters to disrupt education for their cause, they need an audience. Whether it is hundreds of students in a packed auditorium or smaller numbers in seminars or laboratories, protesters running into those classrooms and terminating lectures is an ideal platform for focusing management’s attention on a grievance. Students attending classes could, moreover, be persuaded or coerced to join what is always a smaller group of agitators moving from class to class. In the process the majority of students find their learning interrupted.

Where those protests continue for weeks or even months, there is a great danger that the academic year might not be completed and the graduation (and employment) of thousands of students is endangered. When this happened in 2015-16, several of the elite universities continued teaching and learning via online platforms. This, I predict, will become a growing trend for a simple reason: the ongoing protests on campuses are not only going to continue, they are going to get worse because the underlying causes of student grievance are structural and not simply a matter of administrative failure by government or universities or the national student financial aid scheme...

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