Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read September 2020 — The pandemic forced educational institutions to pivot all of their operations to a completely virtual landscape. Many university leaders were planning on returning to normalcy at some point in the upcoming months, but that looks increasingly unlikely. The keys to a successful academic future are in the hands of those educators who are willing to adapt and use innovative technology to their advantage. 

For the majority of universities the rapid transition into an entirely digital world came as a rude awakening. It showed just how fragile the framework of higher education could be without a contingency plan in place. Nevertheless, within days institutions like Drexel University and  Rowan University worked tirelessly to develop new strategies that would not only keep them afloat but would help unify the educational community.  

“Between the financial impact of COVID, the demographic changes, the situation in terms of bringing international students here, and with so many constraints on the system … institutions are really going to have to step back and begin to rethink their model because the sector is not going to be spared continued disruption going forward,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told DrexelNOW. “More than ever, partnerships — or joint ventures, or mergers, or whatever you want to call them — are the way to go. I think the sector is going to see an almost healthcare system-like response to what’s going on. Healthcare started on its own consolidation and rethinking its model decades ago and it’s obviously still in the middle of it. I think it’s time for higher ed to go through the same types of dynamic changes. I think you’re going to see fewer institutions. I think you’re going to see more networks of institutions. I think you’ll see more hybrid, more online. Hopefully we keep face to face, but that’s just part of what we do.

As Fry mentioned, in the years to come, almost the entirety of higher education’s traditional model could be shifted, not only the logistics concerning profitability but also the student’s overall learning experience. Despite implementations caused by COVID-19, it seems as if a new institutional network was inevitable. Even before the recent pandemic, consumers have been transitioning into the digital realm. Students and parents had started craving alternative options for higher education that involve more flexibility, innovative delivery models and seamless transitions between face to face lectures and online learning. 

Universities are starting to require students to download applications like the DUO, a two-factor authentication system, that helps with the onboarding process. The software works with third-party technology providers to verify a student’s identity. Biometric tools, commonly used by financial technology corporations, are also gaining popularity in this space. “New users will now be asked to take selfies before uploading them to the (UK fintech company) Curve platform alongside pictures of their driver’s license, passport or other official ID documents. FinTech will then use its partner’s biometric capabilities to compare the two images and verify potential customers’ identities,” according to PYMNTS, a B2B platform for the payments industry. 

During this period of evolution, sound insights and collaboration between the public and university leaders will be pivotal for the education sector’s success. To learn more about the future of education in South Jersey, register now for the Invest:South Jersey 2020 Virtual Launch Conference. The conference takes place on Oct. 8 at 11:30 a.m. The virtual conference will feature two robust panels, including “Innovation and adaptation: What this could mean for education post-pandemic,” moderated by Marlene Asselta, president of Southern New Jersey Development Council, and featuring Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College of South Jersey, Monica Adya, president of Rutgers School of Business at Camden, and Barbara Gaba, president of Atlantic Cape Community College. 

To learn more, visit:

Students face remote learning in return to school

Students face remote learning in return to school

By: Beatrice Silva

3 min read August 2020 — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so does the number of universities keeping their physical doors shut this school year. The University of Notre Dame Princeton University, and Rutgers-Camden Business School are just some of the institutes that announced their decision to go fully online. 

Just as businesses needed to pivot during the pandemic and subsequent recession, educational institutions also had to find a way to adapt. “It is an unprecedented event that took us all by surprise,” Dean Monica Adya of Rutgers-Camden Business School told Invest: South Jersey. “We established a COVID-19 task force that includes all of my cabinet members, to look at how to proceed. One of the first things we did was to look at our emergency management plan that tackles infectious diseases, among other things. We focused on operational and communication measures. The former is relative to academic and business continuity. As Gov. (Phil) Murphy enacted the executive order stating that no one was to come to campus, we moved to an online format for all classes. Fortunately, several of our programs were already entirely online. Many of our students were already taking a combination of online and in-class programs, making them familiar with the online platform. We are sparing no resources or action plans to make sure our students get through this semester. We are also launching discussions about recovery, how we are going to help people who are out of work to get back into the workforce, and what specific programs and certificates they will require for that to happen in the shortest of terms.” 

Most students experienced a taste of distant learning back in April when schools were forced to close after lockdowns were issued across the United States. However, that doesn’t make it any easier for undergraduates, postgraduates, and faculty members to pick up where they left off. “We had some challenges on the student side because many students, although we think of them as a digital generation, had difficulty making the switch to online learning.  We’ve worked through much of this but it took some time,” Mike Mittelman, president of Salus University, told Invest: Philadelphia.

Innovation and technology play a huge role in how higher education continues to operate. Virtual learning experiences have replaced physical classrooms and face to face lectures. The new format has left some students feeling overwhelmed and quite frankly ripped off. At Rutgers University, more than 30,000 people have signed a petition started in July calling for an elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut, according to The New York Times

Student housing is another topic of debate in the education community. While some institutional leaders don’t believe it’s safe, others argue that students don’t have anywhere else to go.  Schools, like The University of Pennsylvania and Temple University, are allowing a limited number of students back on their grounds but under strict conditions. Most schools that are letting students live in dorm rooms or attend in-person classes are actively enforcing social distancing, face masks and have provided COVID-19 tests. At Drexel University, international students or students who are experiencing financial hardships will be the only ones allowed to live on campus. 

Along with the many challenges the pandemic caused, it also created new opportunities. COVID-19 pushed educational institutions out of their comfort zones. To stay in business, universities adapted to new technologies and even formed a few alliances along the way. “This whole industry has shifted very, very quickly, so that shows that there’s flexibility, it shows that there’s resilience,” John Fry, president of Drexel University, told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “Those adaptations are incredibly valuable assets and institutions should hold on to that and not say, ‘Once this is over, we can go back to the way it was.’ Going back to the way it was, I think, is not a good idea.” 

South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

South Jersey and Philadelphia transition into online learning

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read April 2020As the coronavirus reduced daily activity to only essential services, educational institutions were forced to transition at a moment’s notice into a virtual setting as shelter-in-place measures and social distancing became commonplace. Entire curriculums, testing, labs, and even physical education in some cases, transitioned into an online classroom setting as teachers and students of all grade levels resumed their education under the COVID-19 pandemic. 

These risk-management decisions stressed and challenged the infrastructure of universities, colleges, and schools throughout the nation, while at the same time creating opportunities for innovation in the educational landscape. Although fully online classes are a temporary measure to slow the spread of COVID-19, and as local, state and national governments consider what a reopened economy may look like, educational systems alike are being forced to mitigate the challenges and innovate their educational practices and offerings via learning innovation and digitalization.

In the Philadelphia region, Neumann University transitioned quickly into an online learning setting thanks to close to two years of prior preparation. For the last 24 months, the university has been expanding its online and remote learning capabilities, President Chris Domes told Invest: Insights in a virtual interview. “Our faculty were well-prepared. Our students work off of their devices and their phones, they already live in a virtual world socially, and now they get to live in a virtual world academically,” Domes said. In similar fashion, in New Jersey, the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, was preparing for a shift in the educational landscape as early as February. In February, the university created an emergency operation center as part of its risk-management strategy, school of nursing Dean Donna Nickitas told Invest: Insights in a virtual interview. “By the time we got to spring break, we knew we were going to have to make some quick changes,” Nickitas said. The nursing school quickly notified students if they needed resources like computers, webcams, and access to remote learning software.

Under the COVID-19 landscape, tuition-dependent institutions are among the most vulnerable as students are liable to put their education plans on pause as they grapple with loss of employment and income. Colleges and universities with strong endowments and alumni contributions will likely survive the impact of COVID-19, but declines in revenue and increases in costs will likely loom for the coming academic years. Declining revenues could stifle innovation as institutions reprioritize budgets and offerings. 

However, a life post-COVID-19 may be ripe with opportunities for innovation and further streamlining of classes. COVID-19 helped destigmatize fully online learning. Moving forward, educational leaders will likely see online education as more than a source for extra revenues. Instead, online education will likely become an integral part of institutional resilience and academic continuity. Educational institutions will have to rethink how they plan for, fund, and market online learning. More unified institutions will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, as online courses and student support functions become more centralized and integrated into existing academic structures and processes. 

After student outreach efforts, Neumann University found that close to 80 percent of its students were adjusting well to the remote learning setting. The university is working to assist all of its students with resources like tutoring, student engagement activities, counseling, and more. The feedback gathered from students will help determine what innovations and changes the institution needs to make for the future, according to Domes. “We are getting initial feedback from our students and are utilizing that to help us understand that moving forward if we remain in this status for some time what are we learning and how might we make this more appropriate for students in the future so that we make sure we are adapting along the way,” he said. For Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, the school is preparing to continue to groom the next generation of nurses and healthcare professionals. “What we have learned is that we need to be prepared, Nickitas said. Though summer and fall enrollments figures will likely fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nickitas hopes the essentiality of nurses and healthcare professionals will motivate more students to explore a career in medicine. “I do hope that because of the kind of publicity that TV stations and media are giving nurses, that people understand not only what nurses do, but what they know. Hopefully, that will resonate with some individuals and inspire them to say, ‘I want to make a difference, that is what I want to do.’”

Additionally, it is possible that online learning goes truly global as colleges and universities expand their student base to allow for more international students who may never see the inside of a physical campus. 

The lasting impact of COVID-19 to the educational sector remains to be seen. For the time being, it is likely that students will finish the spring semester and potentially the 2019-2020 school year from the comfort of their homes. As educators prepare for summer and fall semesters, they will have to contend with the challenges and opportunities of educating students in a post-COVID-19 world.       

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

To see our full interview with the education leaders and more, visit:

Spotlight On: Harvey Kesselman, President, Stockton University

Spotlight On: Harvey Kesselman, President, Stockton University

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read April 2020 —  As COVID-19 jolted all sectors of the economy, education institutions had to find a way to continue delivering education to their students. Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman described to Invest: the school’s online mobilization and what inspirations the institution is taking from this unprecedented crisis.

How has the transition to all online classes and education been for your university, both on the student side as well as faculty? 

It certainly was a challenge to move every course online in a matter of days, and to do it with most of the faculty and staff working remotely themselves. But everyone rose to the challenge. Our IT department, in particular, did outstanding work to make sure all of our technology needs were met, and assisting faculty, staff and students with any questions or problems they had. Faculty were creative in adapting their classes to ensure students still got a complete educational experience. 

Do you feel higher education is receiving enough state and federal support in this time of need? 

Right now, the government has to focus on the pandemic, as it should. Moving forward, we recognize that budgets will be tight, but we hope that there will be some recognition of the crucial work colleges and universities did to ensure students could continue their educations, and will continue to do so in the future. Many families have not been working, and financial aid at both the state and national level will be increasingly important.

As higher education adjusts to the current situation, what opportunities and innovation do you see carrying over post-COVID-19? 

The current situation has inspired faculty and staff to learn new technologies and be creative in how they use them. They are exploring new ways to connect beyond the classroom. They are hosting virtual book readings, lectures and movie discussions. They are using teaching methods and tools that could still enhance their lessons, even after students return to campus. 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: