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Whitworth ed school dean says pandemic offers learning opportunities in livestreamed S-R forum

After the pain subsides, the COVID-19 pandemic will offer some lifelong lessons for educators and the rest of society, the dean of Whitworth University’s School of Education said Thursday.

In a wide-ranging video-stream interview carried on The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages website, Ronald Jacobson offered some bold predictions about the future of education.

They include the possible demise of some small colleges – though not in the Inland Northwest, Jacobson stressed – and major changes in how the youth of tomorrow will be taught.

Jacobson also urged high school seniors to resist the urge to defer their own future, because this crisis will inevitably pass.

That might be difficult to hear as the cruel circumstances of the pandemic wipe away the pomp of graduation, senior prom and other rites of passage that will never happen for the class of 2020.

“I’ve got to be honest, the reality of that is hard to swallow for our seniors,” said Jacobson, who also sympathized with college seniors and athletes denied their last hurrahs.

“One of the things we can do is grieve with them,” he said. “That process of interaction is huge.”

After that, they must be pulled up with a loving hand – from family, friends and neighbors.

Speaking to those who might wish to postpone college, “I would say this is the perfect time to jump in,” Jacobson told Spokesman-Review Editor Rob Curley.

And even if lectures this fall aren’t delivered in a traditional building, Jacobson promised that “we’re going to develop some great online programs by then, because we’re being forced to do that now.”

Jacobson acknowledged the steep learning curve forced upon educators, and the stress of parents who are fretting about the less-than-ideal learning environment for younger students.

“Our K-12 teachers are phenomenal; they’re professionals and they will catch your kids up,” Jacobson said. “Next fall there is no reason to worry.”

In the meantime, Jacobson urged parents to narrow the gap by taking advantage of online learning resources that are growing by the day.

That too will pay off in the long run, Jacobson contends.

“This is a significant time in students’ learning, moving from face-to-face to virtual learning. Teachers are adjusting.”

So too are schools and universities , which are “moving away from that stand-and-deliver model. … That hybrid model of online self-learning and face-to-face holds great promise.”

Not everyone will adapt, Jacobson cautioned. Some students will struggle in an educational model that is increasingly “interest-based.”

Likewise, some colleges will struggle to survive. A few may go out of business.

“Higher ed has been under stress for 10 years,” Jacobson said. “My hunch is that a year from now some will no longer be operating.”

“But I have great confidence in our local universities,” he said.