Five opportunities created by COVID-19 for innovators and entrepreneurs

Marguerite Dennis

INFORMATION FOR BOARDS OF TRUSTEES, PRESIDENTS, VICE-CHANCELLORS, PROVOSTS, ACADEMIC DEANS, CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICERS, DIRECTORS OF HEALTH AND DISASTER PREPAREDNESS, ENROLLMENT MANAGERS, INTERNATIONAL DEANS AND RECRUITERS, FINANCIAL AID OFFICERS, CAREER COUNSELORS, LIFELONG LEWARNING COUNSELORS, REGISTRARS, ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL PROVIDERS, EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANTS, AND AGENTS

BULLETIN # 36                                                                         

JANUARY 11-15, 2021

By MARGUERITE J. DENNIS

Looking forward, institutions that thrive, not just survive, will require leaders who are willing to rethink how they work, teach, and engage. This will mean being willing to take a hard look at data, question standard operations, take risks on new ideas, be willing to tolerate failed experiments-essentially being curious and a bit courageous.

                                                                  Jason E. Lane, Professor & Dean, State University of New York at Albany

The Hebrew word, tohubohu, is defined as a state of chaos, utter confusion. The worldwide confusion and chaos unleased by COVID-19 has cast a bright light on the deep fissures not only among health protocols, economic inequality and international interdependence, but also on higher education’s inefficiencies and in some cases, antiquated educational delivery systems.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines innovation as something new or different and entrepreneurship as managing an enterprise with considerable initiative and risk.

In the midst of its devastation, COVID-19 has also presented higher education officials with the opportunity to create new models for educational delivery in the future. At the intersection of disruption and unpredictability will emerge a new world order requiring a shift in perspective and thinking and demanding innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to higher education’s problems.

In his book, Thank You for Being Late, the New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman quotes Lin Wells, a professor of strategy at the National Defense University, who describes three ways of looking at problems: inside a box, outside a box, or thinking “without a box.”

Now, more than ever, higher education needs innovators and entrepreneurs who as capable of doing what professor Wells suggests.

Five opportunities created by COVID-19 for innovators and entrepreneurs

In the post-pandemic era, higher education innovators and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to:

1.Replace strategic planning with vision planning

Having a vision for what a college or university will “look like” after COVID-19 is past history and replacing multi-year strategic plans with vision plans. Vision plans tell your audience why you do what you do. Strategic plans are the roadmap for carrying out your vision.

2.Create a vison planning committee

Convene a new committee with administrators who do not usually have a seat at the table, including: the career counselor and lifelong planning director, the director of research, the registrar, a researcher with expertise in consumer behavior, a health counselor and the director of disaster preparedness.

3.Offer year- long instruction

Online learning, along with in-person instruction, will define higher education in the future. The cancelling of in-person classes by most colleges and universities in the spring 2020 semester and some schools in the fall 2020 semester, illuminated the need for, and the wisdom of, including online instruction as part of all future educational delivery paradigms.

77% of people surveyed by Pearson in their Global Learner Survey believe that a percentage of future higher education students will always attend classes online.

4.Replace antiquated business models with differential pricing

There are numerous surveys (and lawsuits) revealing that families object to paying the same tuition for online learning and in-person instruction.

5.Change recruitment practices

College fairs, accepted student receptions, and traditional orientation programs that were cancelled in the spring 2020 and fall 2020 semesters will be replaced by year-long admission and acceptance practices and virtual fairs and receptions. Student enrollment choices have changed. Preliminary research has revealed that specific cohorts of students, for health and safety reasons, will opt to study closer to home. Malaysia, for example, is a leading student destination in Asia for many regional students as is South Africa for students from Africa.

Conclusion

Moonshot thinking starts with picking a big problem, something huge, long existing, or on a global scale. Next it involves articulating a radical solution.

                                                                                Astro Teller, director, Google X

Dates of destiny are always on time. COVID-19 has caused the world, including the higher education world, to press the pause button and with a critical eye scrutinize what it does and why. Whatever normal is built in the aftermath of COVID-19 will become the new normal. And each college and university will have to decide who will lead their caravan of necessary changes. Who will emerge as the entrepreneur to lead faculty and staff with innovative approaches to the work they do inside, and outside, the classroom?

All change is loss and all loss requires mourning.

                                       Harry Levinson, Harvard Business Review, 1972

Higher education is on the cusp of transformative change. It will never be the same.  No school will be immune to change.

In the months and years to come, as the residuals of the pandemic become more obvious and systemic, the colleges and universities that will not only survive but also thrive will be those who are led by innovators and entrepreneurs with a clear vision of what their schools do and why. They will have succeeded in replacing fear of change with the promise of change.

The French dubbed the decade after the 1918 pandemic the annees folles – the crazy years. Let’s hope the decade after the 2019 pandemic will be one of innovation and creativity, for the world and for higher education.

 

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