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Besides Challenges, Will COVID Bring Us Opportunities Too?

Linchi Kwok, Associate Professor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Few universities are designed to offer fully online curricula, especially in most hospitality programs where lab classes and hands-on experience are essential to student success. Typical hospitality faculty do not teach fully online courses either.

Within a few days when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, almost every institution turned face-to-face instructions into distance learning. All stakeholders in higher education face tough challenges in coping with such a sudden and unexpected change. Yet, is there a chance that COVID-19 could also bring opportunities for us to grow?  

Opportunities for organizations in higher education

According to a recent survey with 182 two-year and four-year college presidents (Lederman, 2020), the top concerns among the campus leaders included: 

  • Inequitable impact on underrepresented students (90% of respondents),
  • A decline in overall future student enrollment (90%),
  • Overall financial stability (88%), and
  • Ability to afford to employ staff and faculty (80%).

Universities are finding ways to address inequity issues. Many schools also allocate available resources to meet their priority needs. Traditionally, hospitality programs are doing well in serving underrepresented students. While we are helping the current underrepresented students in the program, we should also reach out to more potential students of similar backgrounds online. For example, hospitality programs can create mini online certification programs or short video clicks that are tailored to underrepresented students. Then, hospitality programs can promote what they offer to underrepresented students on Facebook, a popular social media platform among teenagers living in a lower-income household (Kwok, 2020). 

Meanwhile, we should not forget the community that supports us or our alumni who are being furloughed or lost their jobs. They want to know how we are doing, and we want to let them know we care about them. When people are spending more time at home, they can be more engaging. The question is: What can we do to better engage our alumni and the local or even global community? Will educational seminars and virtual events be helpful? 

Lastly, when every class is taught in the virtual environment, is it time for us to develop an online global educational program? When the pandemic is over, we can then enhance students’ learning experience with an add-on but an optional component that requires their residency on campus. 

Opportunities for faculty

Nationally, there is a call for what counts for tenure or whether we should extend the tenure clock for tenure-line faculty in light of COVID-19 (Connolly, 2020). In the California State University system (23 campuses in total), for example, faculty may request to pause the tenure clock. They may also choose not to include peer or student evaluations during the pandemic period in their personnel actions for reappointment, tenure, and/or promotion. 

If that is the case, will it be an excellent time to take a risk by exploring new pedagogies to improve teaching effectiveness? How about taking a bold approach to redesign the outlines for an existing course? And challenging ourselves to try new assessment methods? 

In your opinion, is it possible for higher institutions and their faculty to take COVID-19 as an opportunity for learning and development? If so, in what way? 

References

Connolly, J. (2020, April 9). We need to rethink what counts for tenure now. Insidehighered.com, retrieved on July 3, 2020 via https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2020/04/09/covid-19-demands-reconsideration-tenure-requirements-going-forward-opinion

Kwok, L. (2020, February). Where do the students hang out? Suggestions on how to engage students during the #DeleteFacebook movement. CHRIE Communiqué, 34(2), 6 & 12. 

Lederman, D. (2020, April 27). Low-income students top presidents’ COVID-19 worry list. Insidehighered.com, retrieved on July 3, 2020 via https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/presidents-biggest-covid-19-worries-low-income-students-and-colleges-financial-strain

 

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