Online education has reshaped the way we teach students for some time now. But the coronavirus pandemic seems to show exactly how essential and benefic online education is.
In late February and early March, as the Coronavirus pandemic began to spread from China to the rest of the world, most countries affected by the virus decided to close all schools, high schools, and colleges. Governments and authorities made this decision as a precaution to stop the virus from spreading to more of their residents. In a matter of weeks, the pandemic changed how students are educated around the world. As a result, nearly 1.37 billion students worldwide, from 138 countries, had their education disrupted by the pandemic.
Schools and universities from all around the world never faced this level of disruption in decades. Yet, unlike any time in the past, today, we have a secret “weapon” that allows us to continue education even when schools close: technology.
There’s been a lot of fuss about all the benefits of online learning for some time now, even before the pandemic started. More and more education experts pointed out how online training resources could help us take virtual schools even to the less accessible parts of the world, where children still don’t have access to education. Moreover, in terms of costs, flexibility, and convenience, online education was already winning in front of traditional education.
Yet, on the flip note, sceptics pointed out that online education comes with several disadvantages, including little or no face-to-face interaction, an intense requirement for self-discipline, or reduced productivity. Now, although some of these disadvantages may be true to some extent, in such times as the Coronavirus pandemic, online education proved everyone how essential it actually is.
The pandemic is forcing teachers, students, and parents to think critically, be creative, communicate, and collaborate in an online environment. Today, educators teach via video conferencing, students participate using virtual post-it note systems, and create videos and essays they share exclusively online. So, the pandemic showed us that there is another way of teaching and learning, and this could be reshaping education forever.
Online education enables remote teaching and learning
Technology connects students and educators in their homes, it’s no doubt here. Today, several tools and systems allow people from all around the world to connect in front of their computers and communicate and collaborate.
This crisis is giving technology massive insights at scale as to what human development and learning have evolved to be over time. It now allows us to shift from traditional education to online education for good.
But there’s still one major challenge to this changing education environment: deep inequalities. We are talking about devices and bandwidth, which are vital in online education. Those kids without devices and a reliable Internet connection are cut off from learning completely these days. So, now schools worldwide face a tough choice: if they don’t use online education to teach remotely, students miss out on months of curriculum. Yet, if they chose to do, a large group of disadvantaged students will be left out and will fall farther behind their peers.
The way the change has happened, overnight, with no training, and often not sufficient tools, still remains a challenge in our way to make a total shift to online education. Yet, it is a great lesson of how important it is for us to start investing more in e-learning tools, platforms, and training. So, although countries worldwide were not prepared to offer education to their students exclusively online, they might be better prepared in the future after the Coronavirus pandemic comes to an end.
Public and private educational partnerships are growing
As the Coronavirus pandemic forced all educators and students to find creative solutions to move traditional education exclusively online, we’ve also seen some learning consortiums and coalitions taking shape.
It’s no doubt that neither of us was ready to make a total shift to online education. Yet, once we’ve realized that, everybody started to work together towards finding solutions. To be more precise, governments, publishers, education professionals, technology providers, and telecom network providers have all joined forces to find solutions for students and teachers. For example, the American online learning platform Coursera gives colleges free access to its 3,800 courses during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Another example comes from China, where the Ministry of Education has assembled a group of diverse experts to develop a new cloud-based online learning and broadcasting platform. The country also reached out to its Ministry of Industry and Information Technology to support this project.
So, this pandemic is the first step on the way of seeing more cross-industry coalitions that form around a common educational goal.
More free time to engage in online education
It’s already evident that students and teachers must continue their “jobs” even if they have to do it in an online environment. Yet, this pandemic is also an excellent opportunity for those who have been planning to engage in some form of education but never had the time or resources.
As online learning rockets in Coronavirus pandemic, there are more learning opportunities than ever. Some of the most reputable colleges in the world announced that they would publish free courses on their websites that anybody can access. So, those looking to invest some time in self-improvement while stuck at home during the Coronavirus pandemic can consider taking some online courses. This massive wealth of information that is available today is a major opportunity to invest in personal development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant change in how millions of students around the globe access education. And, given the digital divide, these new changes in education approaches are, for now, widening equality gaps. However, as governments and educators have now realized just how vital an online learning environment is in critical times, we are expecting to see some major new solutions for education that will bring much-needed innovation.