Every industry and business are impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic has changed the way we do business and even more significantly, it is changing the way we live. One Industry which is seeing a massive transformation is the Education Industry. For long, education remained a sector which didn't saw any major technological disruption. With the COVID-19 outbreak, students, faculty and facilitators are forced to look for innovative ways to stay connected and keep the classrooms running. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of preparedness as never before, 100% of regular classes were held online and nobody expected to face a circumstance of this scale and duration.
Any technological disruption needs time to penetrate into market. The scale of adoption then grows as the word of mouth spreads. COVID-19 didn't allow for this timeline and personnel in the education industry were suddenly thrown into uncertain waters where they had to switch to online learning mode completely. In this blog post, we will discuss about the challenges faced by the Education industry as a result of the pandemic, the opportunity which has come with the crisis and the impact on several sub-sectors of education including admissions.
There are both behavioral and technical challenges in completely moving to online mode. The behavioral challenge lies in the feasibility and comfort level when it comes to conducting classes online. Not every teacher or student is excited about the idea of completely moving online and they will take time in adapting to this learning mode; place this individual discomfort to the scale of a school or a university then it would lead to time loss and a lot of cases of frustration and commotion. The technical challenge, on the other hand remains in the ability of personnel to adapt to the evolving technologies in order to make the learning experience lucid and engaging. Again, we can't expect people in education industry to have a know-how of technical details; it will take time to train them and make them comfortable in using technology to conduct classes. The same goes with students, especially the very young who might not be adept in knowing the best practices related to platforms such as Zoom or Google classrooms. The challenges are many but we should also be thankful to technology as education, which is perhaps the most important part of societal development hasn't stopped even in the pandemic.
This brings us to the Opportunities.
Every crisis comes with opportunities and with COVID-19, the education industry finds itself in the face of a massive opportunity to break old habits and create new modes of learning (powered by technology). The biggest advantage of technology is the fact that it brings accessibility to the table. Now schools and universities can impart their education to students present anywhere in the world. This will ensure that high quality of education is available to anyone. This is a massive opportunity, especially for talented students who wanted to be educated by reputed faculties from a particular university or school but location constraints barred this from happening. Now with education going online, anyone can be educated from anywhere, provided governments recognize the curriculum from other countries. It will take time for this to become a reality as various approvals would be required but the situation arising from COVID-19 has made people in education industry look at the online option seriously.
For parents who wanted to send their children to reputed boarding schools but dreaded at the idea of sending their kids to permanently live in hostel dorms will welcome this new development.
Online learning also encourages a more personalized learning approach. In schools, classrooms have around 20-50 students; in universities these classrooms house up to 500 students. This setup completely nullifies the personal attention a student must get in order to learn, understand and interpret the subjects clearly. Educational institutions are also a place for emotional development for students as learning not just prepare the student for future but also significantly contributes in their overall personality development. In fact, education is a great way to improve the confidence in students. Many of these aspects are extremely challenging to attain in a regular classroom setup. However, with education going online, students can get personalized attention from teachers and counsellors who can mentor each student more attentively.
Another big opportunity is for the parents to become more involved in their children's education. This is especially true at the school level. With homes becoming classrooms, parents can take passive participation during the lessons and observe the quality of lessons being taught and the corresponding effect on their kids.
This brings us to the most important topic of the blog. What are these digital learning platforms and the attributes they bring to the table?
Digital Learning Platforms and applications.
Digital learning platforms are not a new concept. They have been in place for years now. Several schools and universities have been offering specialized online courses and there have been platforms like Google Classrooms which have been facilitating teaches to impart online education more effectively. However, with COVID-19, the challenge is to impart regular courses online. This adds scale and complexities to the already existing challenge and we need good, innovative learning technologies to solve this challenge.
Let us first talk about platforms which connect students with faculty or educational facilitators. Platforms such as Zoom, Skype and Google meet are enabling virtual classes by easily connecting students with teachers. They also have features such as breakout rooms for more personalized experiences. There are also plenty of platforms where teachers or educational facilitators can curate educational content; some of them include Udemy, Teachable, WizIQ, Ruzuku etc. These platforms also enable you to host the content, either via live sessions or by recorded sessions.
There are also plenty of applications which simplifies and personalize the learning experience. One of the most popular ones is Google Classrooms. It is free web service which facilitates the process of file sharing between students and teachers. One prime application of Google Classroom is for schools to create, distribute and grade assignments more effectively.
Advanced educational applications are also coming up in large numbers. These applications use modern technological application to simplify, personalize and modernize the learning experience. One such example is Up Learn which uses Artificial Intelligence and neuroscience to prepare students for their exams. Up Learn states that by using these advanced technological measures they curate specialized content for each individual and deliver a learning experience which is more engaging and which comes with a greater rate of success.
Is learning online effective?
There is widespread skepticism that online learning isn't as effective as traditional learning. Nevertheless, we should look at this with optimistic eyes as research estimates that students retain 35-60% of more material when learning online. This percentage is 8-10% for classroom learning. It is mostly due to the fact that students tend to learn faster in an online set-up. In addition, they can re-watch the lectures, re-read the video scripts, skip or accelerate through content as per their comfort level. It is believed that students take 60% less time in online classrooms.
Nevertheless, these figures are subjective to age groups. For e.g. younger children will learn better in the traditional educational setup. Younger children get easily distracted and a 100% online mode will not effectively work for these kids.
In order to extract maximum benefits from the online learning experience, there must be a push to include effective collaboration tools and engagement methods to supplement the video lectures (live or recorded). Online learning mode is going to become the preferred mode of learning even after the crisis gets over. It is therefore important to embrace the technology and make online learning engaging, accessible and informative.