Digital Transformation in Higher Education Due to COVID-19

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In 2019, the COVID-19 virus started in China, and long after that the virus spread all over the world and change the way we live and worked. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, also known as COVID-19, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and it has been a year since World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and limiting face-to-face contact have been implemented by almost every country in the world, and this led to the temporary shutdown of many institutions, including educational institutions, and this temporary shutdown impacted millions of students and workers globally. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation is needed and it hasn’t been that urgent before. Although, there is no strong evidence to support the effectiveness of full closure in controlling the pandemic. That is why a lot of academic institutions opted for the less drastic measure of transitioning to online distance education. The development of “smart technologies”, digital applications, and educational resources of MOOC, SPOOC, and several others is a factor in the global educational space transformations, gradually changing the ways of education and its organization. The massive migration of academic courses to the Internet due to the COVID-19 epidemic has again raised many questions and brought down routine practices.

This article tackles the topic of education during the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying shift to remote learning. The review process is composed of 4 stages, Identifying the objective, searching process, applying inclusion, analysis, and data extraction.

After doing research, there are many limitations and disadvantages of online education, but there are some important limitations that need to be addressed soon to improve the quality of the students and graduates. The limitations and disadvantages are:

  • Communication quality: building and sustaining relationships and developing rapport between students, their peers, and their teachers became more difficult due to the devaluation or lack of face-to-face contact, as well as the inherent ambiguity of written interactions.
  • Student engagement, participation, and motivation: student engagement was sometimes lacking due to factors such as reliance on recorded lectures, a lack of motivation or interest, stress and boredom, as well as the distraction caused by using electronic devices.
  • Student performance assessment: due to the difficulties associated with bringing students to campus to administer tests, academic staff was faced with the challenge of redesigning evaluations in a way that fairly and reliably captured student performance.

To overcome the limitations and disadvantages above, education institutions need to implement high-quality tools for providing accessible, user-friendly, error-free, and high-quality eLearning portals and other types of online platforms.

Since the lockdown, almost every institution has its eLearning system, either they adopt the currently available eLearning like Google Classroom, or they develop their eLearning platform. But how to have a high-quality eLearning portal? Many eLearning models aim to combine the principles to use and maximize the use of technology in education. But above all, the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) model is one of the best-known references because the teacher needs to develop three kinds of knowledge: technological, pedagogical, and content adequate for using ICT in education. TPACK is a framework that helps teachers consider how their knowledge domains intersect to effectively teach and engage students with technology. TPACK is an approach that looks at the combination of what teachers know, how they teach, and the role of technology to better impact student learning.  There are 3 domains in TPACK, content knowledge (CK), pedagogical knowledge (PK), and technological knowledge (TK). The TPACK framework model is illustrated in the figure below.

  • Content Knowledge (CK) is the what. The teachers’ understanding and expertise of the subject area they teach, whether it’s science, social studies, maths, language art, or all of the core curricular areas. CK is made up of all the facts, concepts, and theories of any given discipline.
  • Pedagogical Knowledge (PK) is the how. With your expert knowledge of the art and science of teaching, from learning theories to instructional design, PK includes methods of teaching and assessment, like project-based learning, as well as instructional strategies like think0pair-share. Knowledge of these principles helps you design successful learning experiences for each student.
  • Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) is the intersection of the pedagogical and content areas. The knowledge you have of how to effectively engage students in learning concepts and skills. This knowledge includes approaches for addressing different learning styles and scaffolding content for deeper understanding.
  • Technological Knowledge (TK) represents your knowledge about the tools including how to select, use, and integrate technology into your curriculum but it’s not just about the devices it’s also the quality of content that students access through apps, websites, and learning games. By integrating technology into PCK, you now have new insights into and opportunities for students learning.
  • Technological Content Knowledge (TCK) refers to how technology is used in a subject area for deep and lasting learning. For instance to further their understanding of the topic budding scientists can use sophisticated tools to collect evidence, make observations, and document findings. Interactive software then allows them to see their data represented in various ways. The application can help deepen individual students’ inquiry within a given discipline.
  • Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK) is your understanding of how to choose and manage technology for your students. For instance, what technology will best ease your students’ workflow throughout their exploration of the scientific method? How can you use collaboration tools to have students share their learning? This technological knowledge will advance your teaching.
  • And finally, the intersection of three knowledge domains, content, pedagogy, and technology is the core of TPACK. This center area refers to your understanding of how tools can enhance your teaching and support student learning more deeply and effectively. For example, when learning about water pollution, students could explore 3D models of bacteria’s cellular structure and then create animated images to analyze local water sources. They could share their findings virtually with a prominent field expert. This dynamic interplay of all three components is TPACK, the heart of innovative teaching.

TPACK is the result of these various combinations and interests, drawing from them – and from the three larger underlying areas of content, pedagogy, and technology – to create an effective basis for teaching using educational technology. For teachers to make effective use of the TPACK framework, they should be open to certain key ideas, including:

  1. Concepts from the content being taught can be represented using technology,
  2. Pedagogical techniques can communicate content in different ways using technology,
  3. Different content concepts require different skill levels from students, and tech can help address some of these requirements,
  4. Students come into the classroom with different backgrounds – including prior educational experience and exposure to technology – and lessons utilizing edtech should account for this possibility,
  5. Educational technology can be used in tandem with students’ existing knowledge, helping them either strengthen prior epistemologies or develop new ones.

To support the TPACK model, blended learning in ODE needs to be introduced and implemented. ODE is the use of the internet and certain other significant technology for the production of educational content, instructional delivery, and program management ODE can be delivered in two main formats: synchronous and asynchronous. As the name suggests, synchronous distance education (SDE involves live, real-time interaction between teachers and students. It aims to simulate the communication model of a traditional classroom. Examples of SDE would include live webinars or virtual classrooms. Asynchronous education, on the other hand, introduces temporal flexibility. It does not require real-time interaction; instead, the educational material is available online for students to access at their convenience. Examples of asynchronous education would be video recordings and emails.

As an additional recommendation, educational institutions can implement chatbots for learning for many reasons. Firstly, they can maintain the student’s motivation by asking him questions and holding the conversation. Secondly, they involve providing feedback. Thirdly, they can accumulate important information for educational design in matters of updating and adjusting content. Fourth, they act as guides between content and everyday practice, helping students to consolidate their skills in professional and other activities upon completion of training. The effectiveness of using chatbots is significantly increased if the dialog between the person who completed the course and the chatbot takes place in messengers, because, according to data short text messages in messengers are read more often and more readily than more detailed ones in email, also requiring opening in each letter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts on society and on the way, humans organize themselves in the real world. It has exposed systematic issues within institutions and brought about long-overdue changes. The educational system was no exception to this. Many institutions and governments were underprepared for this abrupt migration to technology-based working and learning. This resulted in issues of inequality, lack of access, and lack of skills to facilitate this type of learning. There are limitations inherent to ODE that prevent it from acting as a full substitute for traditional education. This is particularly true in fields where hands-on training is an absolute necessity to meet learning requirements. The flexibility and convenience ODE offers and the much-needed push for change it has inspired cannot be denied. However, its efficiency in terms of student outcomes as compared to traditional education is still a point of dispute. It is therefore imperative to continue investigating online education. Policymakers should take the findings of education research seriously to bridge whatever gaps may be present. The digital transformation of higher education provides new opportunities for the organization of studying, interactions between a student and an employer, the issuance of diplomas, etc. Its architecture is transforming, and what yesterday seemed like an illustration from a science fiction novel, today forms the basis for tomorrow’s reality. Universities will have to accept changes, otherwise, they risk losing in competition with other institutions that offer alternative innovative options for obtaining knowledge and certificates.