When the pandemic hit in early 2020, education activities promptly shifted to online platforms. While theoretical-based subjects could seamlessly shift online, those that were skewed towards skills-based required more innovative measures to ensure that learning outcomes were still met. Take for example in events management, where teaching and learning processes are divided into the sequence of 1) Planning; 2) Event execution; and 3) Post-event evaluation. The outcome-oriented approach to learning can be challenging particularly when the online learning environment requires a different skill set. However, the challenge not only arises from a different learning environment but also includes the fact that student expectation has also changed during this period.
The role of an events educator is beyond one that only imparts theoretical knowledge, but also cultivates and refines the employability and quality of graduates entering the events industry. Hence, when events education needs to adapt to online learning, educators need to continually equip themselves with technological functions and applications. For instance, the pandemic has led to a rise in virtual events, whereby an increasing emphasis is placed on new skillsets such as video editing, digital media production and broadcasting.
While virtual events may have attained significant importance in recent years, event educators also need to hone and prepare the skills required to organise physical events especially as nations across the globe are transitioning towards a COVID-19 endemic phase. This suggests that events education soon will seek to fulfil experiential learning needs where students could develop skills to plan, organise and execute both virtual and physical events. The acquisition of the appropriate set of skills will increase the employability of events management graduates and mould them to meet the challenges in the work environment.
Teaching and learning also underwent another challenge where student interactivity was interrupted by social distancing regulations imposed by education institutions. Social distancing poses a significant challenge, particularly for newly enrolled events management students who have not had the opportunity to ‘get to know’ their classmates. The creation of events requires significant teamwork and student engagement, which can be an issue if students are not well-acquainted with one another.
Embarking on a semester-long or year-long project with a group of people one hardly knows would likely slow down the communication processes needed to make events successful. Although the traditional role of an educational institution is to advance knowledge through teaching and learning, the role of an events educator would now need to focus on creating a conducive environment to meet the social needs of students. Events educators ought to perhaps consider adopting interactive and small-group activities to facilitate easy communication amongst students as well.
The online learning environment has provided significant benefits such as enabling independent learning, providing convenience and improving time management skills. However, online learning can also be overwhelming especially when events management students have to juggle between written report submissions and running events at the same time. Hence, there can be considerations by events educators to delegate tasks and at the same time guide students to pace and manage their workload efficiently. This is particularly imperative for students who are new to project-based learning and assessment. Paced learning and assessments can also be an effective method to enable student motivation.
As a result, a paradigm change is required, as well as research on resetting events education. Learning and adapting to new skills, particularly in the technical and digital domains, as well as becoming more inventive and diversifying the event business, would be among the changes. These skills will be required of students over the next decade and would be helpful to the students to feel at ease and effective in the new world of events and business.
Skills related to technology and digitalisation, crisis management, and also soft skills such as strategic leadership, adaptability, resilience, and strategic decision-making, must be infused into future curriculum, fuelled by industry views and demands. The teaching of these aptitudes will need new knowledge and skills from educators, as well as financial commitment from institutions and significant industry support.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to the events industry, the impact has only shown that this industry is a resilient one, and therefore, would need equally resilient and innovative events professionals to be ready for the workforce, ensuring that the future of events become stronger and more meaningful.