UNESCO estimates that over 1.5 billion students in 165 countries are out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced the global academic community to explore news ways of teaching and learning, including distance and online education. This has proved challenging for both students and educators, who have to deal with the emotional, physical and economic difficulties posed by the illness while doing their part to help curb the spread of the virus.  The future is uncertain for everyone, particularly for millions of students scheduled to graduate this year who will face a world crippled economically by the pandemic. 

In the COVID-19 and higher education series, UNAI talks to students, educators and researchers in different parts of the world to find out how COVID-19 has affected them and how they are coping with the changes. The series also aims to highlight the lessons learned and potential positive outcomes of the global lockdown for higher education. 

Dr. Michael Krüger is the Coordinator of the International Education Management (INEMA) programme at Ludwigsburg University of Education (Germany) and Helwan University (Egypt). The international master’s program jointly developed by the two universities provides managerial and leadership training to young professionals from all over the world who aspire to work in educational institutions.

The programme is a combination of in-person and online classes, so the faculty and students, located in 12 different time zones, are already experienced with virtual classes. However, Dr. Krüger noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted the learning routine of students, but also their personal lives, including job losses, additional family responsibilities, the inability to travel and a sense of isolation and loneliness.

Dr. Krüger say flexibility is key for addressing these difficulties, and he and his colleagues start the day by checking in with the students and understanding their situation and using videoconferencing software, messenger apps and bulletin boards to stay connected with them. He also highlighted the important role that educators play in this time of change and adaptation in terms of combating misinformation, encouraging students to reflect on what is happening, and providing emotional support to students. 

Despite the complexity of the new teaching and learning arrangements, Dr. Krüger is surprised how focused everyone is and how much has been achieved. He believes the lessons learned from these experiences will have a lasting impact on their teaching and help strengthen the educational system. Listen to the full interview with Dr. Krüger here.

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