What Has Been The Impact of the Pandemic On the Digital Transformation Of Higher Education In Latin America? Key Findings From A Regional Study And Lessons For The Future

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Cover of report Featured Photo: Allison Shelley / EDUimages / CC0

Compared to other sectors in the system, the higher education sector pioneered the adoption of remote learning models to respond to the new demands of the pandemic. In many contexts in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), higher education institutions (HEIs) already had long-term digital transformation strategies, with some level of virtual teaching and learning –  in some cases incipient, in others very advanced – which arguably allowed them to respond to new service demands more efficiently.

The Inter-American Dialogue carried out a study with the objective of evaluating the impact of the pandemic on the digital strategies that HEIs in the region had already been developing. This report documents and analyzes the results of a regional survey applied to 178 HEIs, which was conducted in 2021 and 2022.

The survey focused on three areas of impact (which also structure the findings presented in this report): changes in the demand, offer, and permanence of (1) hybrid and/or virtual programs, (2) new careers, areas of study or key skills, as well as (3) the alliances that HEIs formed with other institutions or with the private sector to expand their services.

The report presents key messages that could inform future strategies for the digital transformation of higher education in LAC in each of the three areas:

  • The pandemic has caused a significant increase in the temporary adoption of hybrid and virtual models, as well as an interest in students and institutions themselves to maintain this offer in the future – but there are barriers to ensuring their long-term permanence. For example, 38 percent of HEIs surveyed report that their teachers’ lack of sufficient digital skills is a key barrier to expanding their virtual offer.
  • The student and labor market demand is aligned with the institutions’ curricular adaptation efforts, with a focus on short and specialized courses. 51 percent of HEIs surveyed have plans to offer new certification options for micro-courses focused on practical skills.
  • The pandemic – and lack of institutional capacity, in many cases – has motivated more partnerships between institutions and with the private sector. 64 percent of HEIs surveyed formed new inter-institutional partnerships during the pandemic with the goal of expanding and adapting their educational services.



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