By Dr. Tomi Wahlström |
At this point most have accepted the fact that the world has been forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic. We expect significant changes in higher education and the sport industry. This puts sport education in the middle of an unprecedented and unpredictable transformation. There will almost certainly be a shift toward distance learning as colleges and universities can no longer hold traditional classes as before. Campuses will most likely look very different in the future, as they simply cannot be such gathering places for people anymore. Very similarly, people will be less likely to gather in sports venues to enjoy sports in person. For some colleges and universities, this will be detrimental as they receive a large part of their revenues from ticket sales to sports events. This will endanger collegiate sports as a whole and decrease the demand for jobs in the sector. Professional sports will suffer as well and result in even less demand for coaches, trainers, and sport managers. Layoffs have already started and many minor leagues or even major leagues may not survive at all. There is, therefore, no doubt that the demand for sport education may decrease as well. At the same time, the demand for online education may increase. As a result, institutions that are already offering online sport education courses may benefit while traditional brick and mortar schools may suffer.
It is important for everyone to understand that what traditional brick and mortar schools are doing right now to convert face to face courses into online courses does not constitute true online education. Proper online education involves much more than just lecturing via Zoom. It requires complex infrastructure such as an existence of an instructional design team and support personnel to run learning management systems and support students. It is impossible for schools to just flip the switch and turn into legitimate institutions of online education within weeks or even months. Those schools that are 100% online have mastered their craft and developed their course offerings over time. They have skilled online faculty that know how to develop and teach online courses. Traditional on-ground professors do not possess these skills. Successful facilitation of an online course requires much more than just lecturing via Zoom or any other similar platform. It requires an ability to provide high quality and detailed learning feedback and participate in online discussions using Socratic dialogue. It requires an understanding of constructionism and adaptive learning among many other concepts and models. Since online learners are typically nontraditional adult learners, faculty must also know about adult learning theory and active learning. Instructors must be able to become coaches on the side rather than sages on the stage. They must learn to facilitate rather than to profess. Developing such skilled faculty requires intentional training, and it cannot be done overnight.
To conclude, sport education will change and it will most likely shift to more online education like every other academic discipline. The sport industry will suffer and this will result in a decreased demand for sport professionals. In the end, those sport educators who are quick to adapt and have mastered the true online education are in a better position than their competitors are. They will likely shape the future of the sport industry as well since they will produce the future sport professionals. This will be a paradigm shift unlike any other.
Dr. Tomi Wahlström is Vice President of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy.