University teaching after Corona – future concepts in sight?

University teaching after Corona – future concepts in sight?

Since March 2020, the sudden shift in teaching to predominantly digital formats has been well managed pragmatically at German universities. But what happens next? A new study by the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung explores what strategic conclusions university leaders are drawing from the pandemic and how this potential can be harnessed for the future.

Gütersloh, March 1, 2022. The last winter semester was again characterized by predominantly digital teaching. Attempts at more campus presence have had to be largely scaled back in the face of rising incidence. But now, as more and more European countries celebrate relaxations and Freedom Days, the chance for a summer semester with more presence is growing. After some surprisingly successful emergency distance learning, how are universities strategically adjusting to a “new normal”? In a wide-ranging study, the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung had 126 university management teams surveyed and published the results in the working paper “Zukunftskonzepte in Sicht?”.

First result: German universities are ready for change and want to continue using digital formats even after the pandemic. The respondents see the greatest need for development in the areas of teaching formats and technical-didactic support for teachers. The technical infrastructure and the associated equipment of teaching and learning rooms also need to be further developed for contemporary teaching that makes optimum use of digital options even after the pandemic.

University leaders show great willingness and readiness to adapt their digitization strategies based on lessons learned from COVID-19. One exception is the topic of remotely monitored examinations: Here, the majority state that they do not wish to continue this form of examination. One reason for this is the lack of legal certainty and acceptance among many university employees. Remote monitoring during online exams – so-called proctoring – has been the subject of criticism due to data privacy concerns.

“The crisis is an opportunity to question outdated learning formats, such as the lecture,” says Julius-David Friedrich, project manager for the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung at the CHE Centre for Higher Education. “Especially when it comes to knowledge transfer, this can be mapped well in online formats. Attendance time can then be used much more for exchange and joint development and work.”

Another finding of the study is that strategy and profile development, taking into account lessons learned from the pandemic, is still evolving at many universities. Clear concepts for a post-Corona future mostly do not yet exist, and many universities remain in crisis mode. The approaches that already exist often aim at blended learning, i.e. the combination of face-to-face and online formats.

“However, if the proportion of online and face-to-face teaching changes in the long term, this will have to be accompanied by an adapted infrastructure,” states Dr. Jannica Budde, project manager at HFD for the CHE Centre for Higher Education. “This requires strategic guardrails against which structural decisions must be made. So universities need to ask themselves what they want to stand for after the pandemic.”

The study was conducted by the HIS Institute for Higher Education Development (HIS-HE) on behalf of the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung, represented by the CHE Centre for Higher Education. It is available for free download and further use under the license CC BY-SA 4.0.