World against COVID-19. Our colleagues' thoughts about the situation: M. Ozgur Kayalica

May 12, 2020

M. Ozgur Kayalica Professor, Department of Management Engineering, Faculty of Management, Istanbul Technical University, Turkey.

Short Letter from Istanbul

Welcoming millions with its population of over 15 million and its historical and touristic places, Istanbul is experiencing its quietest days by following the new decisions taken within the scope of preventing the new type of coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic. The COVID-19 outbreak that has influenced the whole world has been our top priority in Turkey for weeks. Even though there are citizens who act unconsciously in this process, the general population shows the necessary care against the virus. The COVID-19 deeply affected our lives and everything began to take shape accordingly. At this point, our digitalized world has a great meaning. Our priority in COVID-19 days is to stay at home if possible. While many companies decided to work from home, millions of people faced life practices that they had not experienced before. However, we can say that we are in a very advantageous period when we look at the world that is digitalized to the virus. For example, if we were in 1990 and not in 2020, everything would have been much more difficult. Now we will look at the corona virus in terms of the digitalized world.

When we set out from the fact that a human being is a social being, it is of course difficult to be home at all times. However, apart from television, internet and digital broadcasting platforms offer us so many options that it is not possible to finish watching. It is possible to spend these hard days outside of work with good movies, good series and good documentaries.

The measures to be taken in the form of protecting the social distance and / or curbing the economy by curfew are currently seen as the most effective way to control the spread of the epidemic. However, these measures, which will reduce the pressure on the capacity of the health system, will have side effects on the economy in general and cause serious income losses. Along with the production losses in some sectors, the income of those who earn income from these sectors will also decrease. More importantly, some of those earning income from these sectors will run the risk of being deprived of a fixed income. It has already started. Many people claim that their contracts are laid off. Needless to say, these lines will hold for most of the countries, not just for Turkey. While I was writing this letter I have received a newsletter reporting on the recent energy use. It is a well-known fact that there is a positive correlation between energy use and GDP. As economies grow energy demand increases. If energy is constrained for whatever the reason, GDP growth halts. The newsletter was reporting that the energy use in Turkey decreased by 15% in April. This is a clear sign of what we must expect in the near future if we happen to continue live with the COVID-19 and its surrounding ambiance.

How do we academics cope with the situation? Studying at home and interacting online with colleagues provide a certain level of simplicity and comfort assuming that it is not a lab-based field. However, unstable internet connection and -although not very often- short power outages are the most important problems that may cause inefficiency. While it is discussed that many businesses may tend to gradually convert to online and “work from home type” even after Covid-19, the real impact on overall productivity yet to be seen soon. From the academic/teacher perspective, there are pros and cons of teaching online. To me, the net benefit is a negative one. In addition to aforementioned network and power imperfections, the biggest con is the assessment of students. Although there are numerous software to deal with different types of exams, quizzes, etc., it is still difficult to implement a fair evaluation. The main reason is that generally there are thousands of available sources on the internet that students can benefit during an exam. Plus, the social network applications even make it easier for participants to constantly share exam materials.