COVID-19: Adapting to the New Norm in the Higher Education Institutions

By Salleh Sulieman

Nobody had suspected that there would be a pandemic that cuts across the globe, although there was a new type of coronavirus blazed through China early of the year.

It was in a blink of an eye that the usual normal tight weekday schedule and hectic weekend lifestyle are changed with staying indoors. The slogan ‘stay-at-home’ has become a mantra chanted throughout social media to remind people how deadly the virus is.

The fatal adversary known as COVID-19 and has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world by March 2020.  While a possible vaccine is far from inception, scientists suggest social distancing, washing hands frequently with soaps for 20 seconds, applying hand sanitizer, avoiding handshakes, observing coughing and sneezing etiquettes, and putting on a facemask  to prevent the spread. But the biggest challenge is when the government imposed a movement control order (MCO) to break the chain of the virus in support of flattening the curve.

 This is not an option but a force to reckon with.

COVID-19 has seriously slammed Malaysian higher education sector as well. In concert with the government initiatives, universities and colleges are quick to deploy crisis strategy to safeguard their biggest stakeholders– the students. While some managed to flee home, some must remain in the campus causing fear and worry among parents. Authorities quickly provide food and other necessities to the students who stay inside the campus and make sure everything is under control.

For the academic session to continue with the new norm of social distancing and MCO, the online learning has been implemented to ensure smooth process of teaching and learning. In the upcoming month, the two major upcoming events which is the new students registration and orientation; and convocation that are glamorously held in November, may have to change its usual procedure as these two major events involves big social gatherings and overseas travel. The university needs to rethink on how these events can be conducted while complying to the new norm as there is no guarantee that the virus will disappear even when the lockdown is lifted.

It’s a huge challenge for the universities indeed as there will be huge changes on how the usual operational work on student’s registration, teaching, learning, research, seminars, conferences, meetings and convocation will change. Long gone the days where huge gatherings are allowed, a group of people working in the labs, huge attendees in seminars and conferences. The new norm practice that everyone at the higher learning institutions needs to embrace will now be social distancing and high hygiene practice. This will continue to be the daily practice of the mass public, especially in the higher learning institutions. The parents of the future and current students must be rest assured that the higher learning institutions are taking all the necessary actions to curb the virus from spreading to the campus community.  It is and important fact the the higher learning institutions are taking the pandemic seriously and they have no choice but to embrace the changes and the new norm of COVID-19 brings for mankind in order to protect their most important stakeholders which are the students and their staffs.