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File photo of Yale University Law School shown on Sept. 27, 2018 in New Haven, Connecticut. (Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

In reference to your article regarding the pandemic forcing universities globally to bring their courses online, the current worry is how will the job markets behave due to the current Covid-19 pandemic and the economy next year and beyond. Recently the IMF projected a 3% drop in the global economy this year and its repercussions going forward. Since the last several months, the higher education system in both the developed and developing economies globally has undertaken some hectic short term change management, resulting in a major paradigm shift in higher education via shifting to online classes. The impact has been simply dramatic all across the globe and for all levels of education notwithstanding the various challenges being faced including infrastructure, connectivity, communication, navigating new online learning platforms, student engagement, and financing.

It is generally understood that universities across the globe with mature college students hopefully can undertake the rigors of online education and students are savvy enough to engage themselves to learn. What roles are universities playing in providing timely, cost-effective learning technology on such a large scale so that the student not only learns but can enter the dynamic job market confidently and contribute to the economy is the moot point? This is certainly not easy to assess in the current Covid-19 driven world where video-conferencing apps such as Zoom and Webex and Coursera are assisting universities with a doable stop-gap option to imparting education.

The question, however, is are lecturers able to maintain the same depth of engagement with students as in a classroom setting. There are no right answers today. Just as an example, the global higher education market would be worth at least a couple of trillion dollars. Is online education going to be the mantra for the foreseeable future and can universities do it in isolation, or would they need the active support of technology companies, online education organizations, assessment monitoring organizations?

All these new changes have happened due to closures of campuses across the globe. This has also brought into focus the various shortcomings and challenges to all the stakeholders in different countries at different levels. This has perhaps, therefore, exhibited the importance of digital literacy and communication which may become standard requirements going forward.

It looks like it may herald a new type of education delivery system where both the university and technology company will jointly provide the required and relevant education and, with changing times, adding new curriculum becoming a norm on a regular basis. In one shot, online education has completely changed in terms of "location" of the university. Just as today's banking is on the mobile-cell phone and branch banking have become almost redundant, universities seem to be gearing up to go in similar directions.

While on the subject of university, technology, and digital education, this will also lead to a variety of automation services that one must adapt themselves to. It is an economic imperative that reskilling and upskilling will be the name of the game not only for university students, but for all levels of the population at large. Thanks to the various apps hitting the market daily, the mobile user is becoming technically savvy at a great speed.

Even the delivery of products and services is undergoing a huge expansion due to the distancing issue that has come up, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has changed the entire education ecosystem in a short period.

Automation and technology supported education is the name of the game. There is a strong reason to study the implication of Covid-19 on the higher education sector very closely, in light of the global progress underway in the current era of Industry 4.0. Today the advances made by such technologies as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence promise great potential to business process improvements and streamlining as well as improving the quality of lives. It is therefore mandatory that universities, faculty, students, support staff, and technology companies join in collaboratively to explore how machine learning will impact the future.

For business students, AI could include the development of a new curriculum covering the implications and adaptation of AI technology, competitive strategy, new virtual marketing avenues, and its impact on society, which is to be run collaboratively worldwide through enhanced education and communication. The Covid-19 pandemic is fast-tracking digital transformations in various organizations as they are becoming more resilient to future disruptions.

The name of the game for developing countries is to be self-reliant on advanced manufacturing techniques. Dependency on exports of goods and services and human capital needs to be managed. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT, big data, virtual and augmented reality will make businesses more resilient to future pandemics. Here are some suggestions for new courses that could be developed at the university level in such areas as:

1. Strategic Management including predictive models and health issues affecting productivity.

2. How to digitize small businesses, tools, and services aspects.

3. Supply chain management for home delivery of products.

4. Role of courier companies, new logistics, communication, tracking mechanism.

5. A course on data analytics including basic coding experience like Hadoop.

6. A course on Meta5 trading platforms, bitcoins, and its implications.

7. Blockchain technology deep dive in business process and finance.

8. Knowledge Management.

Today, forward looking organizations, large manufacturing companies, multinationals both in the developed and developing countries have as their top priority to make knowledge one of their most important assets. Emphasis is being given to form a strategy for not only how the company will generate, use, share and reuse knowledge, but also how to encourage employees to do the same. Artificial Intelligence implementation into knowledge management systems is still at a nascent stage and thus importance is being given to the evolution of knowledge, gamification of knowledge management and storytelling.

Business graduates who can proactively explore and contribute to the new world by learning and exploiting these technologies will be sought after. What is needed is business creativity and innovation during these times. Businesses that have planned and ready to be able to come up with new ways to deliver services virtually or shift to new product development will be able to weather the storm and empower forward-looking graduates.

Ramesh Kumar Nanjundaiya

Sunnyvale, California

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