We live in a time outlined by crisis and uncertainty; a time when every country and realm of life is being challenged in unforeseen ways. COVID-19 will define our era and will probably influence everything we do of relevance for decades. Against this backdrop, it is an essential duty for universities to contribute to a sense of direction, purpose and hope.
Tecnológico de Monterrey is by far the largest not-for-profit private university system in Latin America, with 26 campuses, over 90,000 students, a health system, senior high schools, as well as a sister university. We have been pioneers in different fields in our hemisphere, including educational innovation through models, pedagogies and novel use of technology.
During the pandemic we have learned how to better serve society by being nimbler and more flexible. We have become a better orchestrator in our community in order to achieve common goals. The litmus test for our performance and our main asset is the level of trust we develop and preserve among our students, faculty and stakeholders.
There will be a clear divide between the before-COVID and the after-COVID eras. We firmly believe it is time to leave old patterns behind and not simply adapt, but lead in the creation of a better post-pandemic world.
In the future, the immersive physical campus experiences will continue to be highly valued by the best universities. However, distance learning is here to stay. It should not be considered an emergency remote-teaching model, but rather the amalgam of evolution-leveraging new technologies (artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality) and improved pedagogies.
The academic experience will also be transformed by shifts from the lecture-based approach towards challenge-based learning. Students learn by solving real-world challenges identified and selected by faculty, together with an external partner from industry, the public sector, or communities, providing a rewarding experience that increases learning outcomes and connects students and the university with the community.
The key changes will likely be related to educational focus, program offering, and delivery and operating models. Our models will be transitioning to multi-delivery platforms with different dimensions: online/hybrid/face-face, synchronous/asynchronous, small/large, etc. Besides full-immersion degree programs, there will be a growth of free-flow options based on micro-credentials and stackable programs. Lifelong learning will be in high demand. The traditional operating model of “all in one place”, fully controlled and operated by a single entity, could evolve towards university alliances, not just among universities but also with industry, with shared faculty, students and resources.
International cooperation and partnerships will become more relevant in the coming years as a way to strengthen resiliency to face global crises in the future. This cooperation will go beyond traditional student mobility programs, and will focus on deep and complementary relationships that strengthen research capabilities, with the participation of industry.
“A crucial element to consider in academic paradigms will be the focus on student well-being, providing students with comprehensive and cohesive environments to enhance their leadership skills and self-realization, promoting an intellectual, emotional and physical balance.”
We have to ponder collectively the societal changes that this pandemic might bring, how it will shape and affect the needs and aspirations of the new generations. We have to keep working to assemble the right template for the future, one that strives for a high tech / high touch blend in our educational focus in order to underscore empathy. At the dawn of a new reality, that is our true calling.
David Garza has served as President of Tecnologico de Monterrey (Tec) since July 2020. He was Tec’s Rector from 2017 to 2020. Dr. Garza has held leadership positions at Tec for more than 30 years and has been a professor and researcher in computer science and information technology. He has played a key role heading innovation initiatives at the university, such as the design and implementation of the Tec21 educational model in Tec’s 26 campuses.