Dr. Poonsri Vate-U-Lan, Assistant Professor, Assumption University of Thailand

With over two decades of research experience in e-Learning, m-Learning, Phygital Learning and Blended Learning, Dr. Poonsri Vate-U-Lan is a Ph.D. supervisor and researcher in Technology-Enhanced Learning, Educational Technology and Innovation. She has guided and supervised more than 15 doctoral candidates to obtain their degree and more Ph.D. students are in the process. She was the presenter of “Empowering Education by Artificial Intelligence” in The Belt and Road Shanghai Autumn 2019 Study Project: Policy and Practice: Teacher Professional Development at International and Comparative Education Research Institute, Shanghai Normal University, Teacher Education Center, UNESCO during 5-19 October 2019. She was the member in the panel discussion of Pedagogical Innovation in Education ICT Forum 2019 hosted by Ministry of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand on April 25-26, 2019 at Centara Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre, Chaeng Watthana, Bangkok. Currently, Asst. Prof. Dr. Vate-U-Lan is a Full-time Lecturer for Ph.D. in eLearning Methodology Program (English Program) which soon will be Ph.D. in Technology, Education, and Management at Graduate School of Advanced Technology Management, Assumption University of Thailand.

June 2020, all eyes are on efforts to develop a treatment to immunize people against COVID-19. The novel coronavirus is not the most aggressive pathogen that disease-fighters have ever faced. But it is fast and elusive. The strategy for fighting it must be as novel, agile, and global as the virus itself. The battle starts in the lab, but it will be won or lost in the delivery. Thailand was dealing with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus infection cases after China and Singapore, within four weeks of reporting its first confirmed case of the COVID-19. The Ministry of Public Health works very seriously to control the outbreak. COVID-19 infected situation of Thailand was 3,102 cases, remedied 2,971 cases, hospitalized 73 cases and decreased 58 cases while worldwide confirmed cases are over 6.4 million cases.

Even though it is a difficult time, the future is still bright, during waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, it is important to activate mental immunization from the insight out. People should not lose hope. As an expert in social science in particular educational technology, Asst. Prof. Vate-U-Lan has continually explored what she can do to unleash the spirit to fight against COVID-19. In this short article, she would briefly offer the findings from her current research to make this idea a reality. As a full-time lecturer at Assumption University of Thailand, she can share her experiences in two aspects: 1) a current higher education environment in Thailand and 2) an idea to activate mental immunization for COVID-19.

The consequence in Activating Mental Immunization

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching health services, medical goods are in short supply, and transport disruptions have left supply chains facing “historic strain”. Mental health plays a major impact on the life of a post-pandemic. Consequently, stress behavior for many people brings a lot of problems. A root of the major impact regarding what is happening during this pandemic for people will cause mental health to be a problem in general from today and beyond. Even the flatten cases of the COVID-19 curve in June become obvious in many countries, however, as a serious matter of fact, countries are now facing an additional threat —a long period of economic instability.

The history from World War II reported that people with stress got rheumatoid cardiopathies correlated with unemployment. Actually, it was not just correlation, causation was established. First of all, stress kills people, because it provokes two things, vaso-spasm in the vascular system and immunodepression, the suppression of the immune system. Thus, the priority is to act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic since there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities, and societies. As the researcher, the mental health consequences need to be studied seriously and ensure that the impacts of the study should widespread the availability of mental health support.

BLACK SWAN or Grey RHINO event

Many experts claimed COVID-19 as a Black Swan event while some experts denied this idea because COVID-19 is only a Grey Rhino event. A Black Swan event is an event defined as unpredictable, having severe consequences, and so-called hindsight bias  This is because COVID-19 is a cataclysm that has caused great economic hardship and that could not have been foreseen. Policymakers can, therefore, use the data from this crisis to plan for future crises. Institutes should learn from what has worked best and make it part of their values permanently

COVID-19 is a Grey Rhino event: an event that is highly probable, with a high impact, and yet neglected. A Grey Rhino event is not random but occurs after a series of warnings and visible evidence. Whilst the consequences are without a doubt severe, both for people and the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic is very much a predicted event. Comparison of the crisis caused by the virus to the financial crash of 2008, it is really different – COVID-19 is a real phenomenon that cannot be explained. The only common characteristic of the two events are both shall pass – and the economy will recover.

Higher Education

In Thailand, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation, a Thai government body that is responsible for the oversight of Higher education follows the Thai Government’s guideline by ordered all universities to provide online learning from March until July 2020. The online class has been done via an interactive app or live online classes under coalitions since many companies unite to help with a better education. The 5G technology which just initial in Thailand will become a more prevalent system for university students. However, an issue of digital division because less digital-savvy families could be left behind also happens.

Technology plays an important role to support education in Thailand, increasing the use of cloud capacity since its essence for remote or home-based learning. Machine Learning is a powerful tool that can help to understand the disease. Moreover, Virtual Experience such as Virtual Reality technology allows people to travel and communicate while at home. Not only smartphones but also desktop or laptop computers become major equipment for studying online.

The fast-moving nature of the COVID-19 outbreak means many short-term conclusions rapidly become outdated. The devise long-term preventative strategies become the goal of experts and researchers. Part of the findings of current research by Asst. Prof. Vate-U-Lan has found that the majority of people agreed to state that “Every nation must fight strongly against COVID-19”. This finding reflects that in general people accept solidarity to pass this crisis.

Roles of Higher Education to activate mental immunization for COVID-19 can be implemented in various ideas. The following details were inspired by an e-book wrote by Dr. Suvit Maesincee, the Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation of Thailand.

Growth for students

The friendly learning environment of online learning will connect to a better quality of traditional class on face-to-face mode. This is because both aim to support the growth of students. The focus of higher education in the post-COVID-19 era will cover not only the updated contents but also in the appropriate contexts. Higher education will expand its umbrella to cover re-skill, up-skill that overcome the crisis of the outbreak. The free online short courses will be available more than before all over the world.

Co-Creative Model

In contrast to a free-market model, institutes will offer more opportunities and supports to all students to create and co-operate for the curriculum than before. The community demand will transform to be new subjects. Our student encourages to co-create and innovate a new way of learning. Students should not study any subjects for just in case. The industry and business sectors will be involved more in higher education to contribute to solving problems through project-based learning or problem-based learning.

Remedy of the Commons

The trend for a remedy of the commons will eliminate the exploitation of the commons. Strategies to deal with current challenges are: be kind, as students and their families will remember how institutes supported them under pressure; be digital, as this will not be the last Grey Rhino or Black Swan; and be aware, as a recovery in the higher education will focus more on future strategies such as Environment, Social, and Governance. Potentially, shifting from short-term profit maximization, however, it cannot reach to the triple bottom line sustainable economic model of People, Planet and Profit. The next phrase must only put People and Planet first.

Thriving in Balance

The momentum of life has changed to balance the mental and the physical. A sustainable economy and well-being together with natural resources based upon humanity’s wisdom will be a major goal.

In conclusion, these challenges present an opportunity for innovation, not only creating vaccine formulations but also how to take the best care of active mental immunization. Together people can unlock the pathway from imagination to implementation.

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