New norms and opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in a higher education setting: Perspectives from Universiti Brunei Darussalam

26 August 2021

In the article by Shahrill et al. (2021) published in the International Journal of Educational Management (January 2021), the authors from Universiti Brunei Darussalam (hereafter referred to as UBD) shared how it was possible to change the way business was conducted in a short time period in order to continue the academic semester and seek alternatives to manage the day-to-day university affairs in the midst of a pandemic crisis at a higher education setting in Brunei Darussalam. The authors’ and the UBD community’s experiences have created new norms and opportunities for the university. 

The COVID-19 pandemic in Brunei Darussalam is an evolving situation with extraordinary challenges for staff and students of the university. The published article was intended to be a conceptual paper where the authors described novel higher education experiences with UBD as a case study, during the pandemic in the first quarter of the year 2020. The authors’ views, interventions and experiences resulted in a new model for higher education that repositioned students to the new global markets and economy. In the first quarter of 2020, although the UBD campus remained open and essential services were continuously provided, the university had to implement and adapt to new norms instinctively to minimise the potential pathways for community spread of the coronavirus, while at the same time minimising interruptions in teaching and learning.

The findings presented in the published article were, firstly, structured blended learning became the basis of teaching and learning, alongside ensuring the highest quality of online education and successful achievement of the intended learning objectives. Secondly, blended learning had opened more opportunities to offer programmes in a more flexible, personalised, student-centric and lifelong learning manner, with the option of taking a study hiatus at the students’ convenience. Thirdly, there were more global classrooms and the exchange of online modules with international partner universities. Fourthly, short programmes such as the Global Discovery Programme were modified and improvised to become an online learning experience. And finally, there were opportunities to understand and consider the physical and mental well-being and durability of the university community in overcoming a national crisis situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic affecting us all, not just in Brunei Darussalam but also globally, has indeed changed landscape of higher education in general. In moving forward beyond the pandemic, in the context of teaching and learning in particular, it showed how resilient and adaptable UBD has been as a one-campus community. Additionally, UBD’s lifelong learning programmes that were offered in a flexible manner in terms of pace, place and pathway needed very little adapting. These extraordinary circumstances will indeed leave lasting changes to the way academics think and strategise education, thus contributing to new norms in higher education. The typical model of classroom-based teaching and learning may no longer be viable for any university to maintain. Therefore, this led to the creation of new opportunities under the new normal, which UBD and other higher education institutions in Brunei Darussalam may need to explore further for the benefit of our future generation of learners.

Shahrill, M., Petra, M. I., Naing, L., Yacob, J., Santos, J. H., & Abdul Aziz, A. B. Z. (2021). New norms and opportunities from the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in a higher education setting: Perspectives from Universiti Brunei Darussalam. International Journal of Educational Management, 35(3), 700-712.


Source: Universiti Brunei Darussalam

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN was founded on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five original Member Countries; Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined ASEAN on 7 January 1984