The impact of Covid-19 has affected 1 116 017 South African learners in higher education alone, writes Craig Bramley, lead education technologist at Citrix.
One thing is for certain: the fallout from this pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way teaching is delivered. This will also require significant changes to the end-to-end operating models of higher education institutions.
One of these changes will be the ability to deliver both campus-based and remote-based learning from the same IT infrastructure.
The ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, on 9 June, 2020, said that South African institutions have developed their detailed strategies for remote multi-modal teaching and learning during the current lockdown period and for all the levels.
While some institutions have managed to offer final year undergraduate and postgraduate students virtual learning facilities, a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses under level 3 in South Africa.
For those still conducting education through virtual learning facilities, these solutions are widely accepted within the higher education sector as being tactical, built on limited IT infrastructure, and missing many core elements.
The estimated reduction in the number of students attending school on campus in 2020-21 has highlighted the urgency with which higher education institutions need to transition quickly from a traditional campus-based model to a remote-ready model and put in place a long-term digital learning strategy.
Higher education institutions are reviewing expenditures, identifying efficiencies, and ensuring they have the capability to continue to deliver value across their offerings. Investing in remote-enabled digital learning platforms will be crucial.
Traditional classrooms will not suddenly cease to exist. There will always be a need for and a desire by students to be in classrooms and laboratories.
However, the requirement for students to be physically on-campus will need to be rethought for higher education institutions to continue to offer learning experiences in a world where student numbers will be limited through restrictions on travel and proximity.
One of the most significant transformations will be at the endpoint. With a switch of reliance from traditional, managed physical desktops in a classroom setting, forward looking higher education institutions will move to more agile BYOD/CYOD options for remote learning and the adoption of cost-effective thin client devices on campus.
The reason for the switch away from traditionally managed physical desktops will help drive the following outcomes (in no particular order):
* Improve student learning experience;
* Improve student, faculty and admin staff accessibility;
* Provide a world-class remote and distance-learning experience;
* Improve business continuity;
* Increase security and reduce the attack surface;
* Reduce capital and operational expenditure;
* Reduce IT management complexity;
* Repurpose or even relinquish existing real estate; and
* Increase sustainability credentials.