by Rishi Zaveri, Co-Founder of Lendwise
The end of the 2020-21 academic year is near and many students, and teachers alike, are hoping for a return to normality by the start of the autumn term.
Sadly, the prospect of face-to-face lectures and seminars restarting in full is looking increasingly unlikely as many universities are planning to continue with some degree of online, remote based-learning.
The news will come as a blow to students who have been eager to return campus and to have the chance to interact with their peers and lecturers once again. The success of the vaccination programme and the roadmap out of lockdown has provided hope that by the summer the vast majority of social distancing measures may be gone and with that hope that university life would also return to the norm as was prior to the pandemic.
Unfortunately, we are not quite out of the woods yet and the lingering uncertainty over new variants has led universities to hedge their bets for the oncoming academic year.
The frustration surrounding these decisions are completely understandable given how badly the pandemic has disrupted and diminished students’ university experience.
There is nothing better than face-to-face learning and virtual study should never replace that. Nonetheless, a temporary blended approach still represents a significant step in the right direction.
A number of universities have explained that they intend to hold as many in-person lectures and seminars as possible, but that for most people these will be combined with online learning.
Many people are pleading for universities to return to normal from September onwards, but I can understand the argument from others that this risks greater disruption further down the line.
A hybrid approach to learning during the new academic year will be a big improvement on last year and should act as a stepping stone to a return to normality as soon as practicably possible.
Given the world in which we now live, online learning may form some part of higher education but the quality will continue to improve as result of what universities have learned over the past 18 months.
What we can agree on, is that while it may have its place, it should never be considered as permanent, long-term alternative.