LINCOLN, Nebraska –One of the biggest issues COVID-19 has caused is how higher levels of education can continue to flourish in the face of a pandemic.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln co-hosted The Global Pandemic Conference: Impacts, Issues, and Opportunities in 2020 and Beyond on Sept. 1 and 2. The 2020 Virtual International Seminar featured four colleges worldwide and examined the impacts of COVID-19 with national and international effects. The four colleges were the University of Nizwa in Oman, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS in Malaysia, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Representatives from each college talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their country independently and how that impact spread to other countries internationally.
In the opening remarks Josh Davis, UNL associate vice president of Global Affairs, said the pandemic has impacted more than just the surface of international sectors.
“Even before COVID, I believe that our world was at an inflection point,” Davis said. “We were already facing a range of economic, environmental, social, and demographic challenges that were already urgent and made more so by the COVID-19 pandemic. These megatrends have already shifted the world’s geopolitical landscape and the world economy, and we know they will continue to do so for years to come.”
These challenges were evident with the first speaker of the day. Mohd Sharir Liew, Ph.D., from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS in Malaysia, detailed how the cost of oil has dropped so significantly that oil companies are required to pay consumers to take their oil. (See chart 1.1)
As a result of COVID-19, the oil crisis in the chart shows one of the worst price drops in history, and it doesn’t affect only one nation.
“We have found out that the world is essentially borderless,” Sharir Liew said.
Throughout Sharir Liew’s talk, he also said the oil and gas industry’s digitalization creates a globalization effect. As countries become more globalized with technological advances, global phenomena such as a pandemic will impact international economies.
UNL hosted section two of the conference and focused on the impact of COVID-19, specifically on higher education and international students. One of the priorities for Nebraska is how to make students feel safe and comfortable during this time.
When the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020, it forced universities across the United States to move to online learning. This created a problem for international students because they traveled thousands of miles to receive a college experience. New questions emerged, such as where students would go, and what would students would do moving forward.
“The University needs to be prepared to answer questions, challenges and provide experiences for our students no matter the circumstances,” said Erika Hepburn, assistant director of Global Strategies. “International students are crucial to bringing a diversity of culture and opinion to a college campus.”
Since the start of the 2020 academic year, a shift to almost all online learning required more adjustments.
“It allowed us to see how we could teach our content to global audiences more effectively,” said Cody Hollist, associate professor in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Studies. “(Teaching) is a challenging task, but those changes have created opportunities. The better we get at online teaching, the more opportunity we have for more international collaborations.”