How COVID-19 Could Reinvent Education For The Information Age

Learning has to be lifelong as students will have multiple careers that make it essential for students to deal with constant change at a faster pace.

More than two million people worldwide have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Not included in these numbers are scores of those who have not yet been tested as well as hundreds of thousands of others whose lives have been upended across the globe due to the pandemic. Nationwide lockdowns and social distancing measures have altered working conditions for every kind of enterprise overnight. No industry or business has been immune to the impact of COVID-19. 

The education sector is no exception. UNESCO estimates that school and college closures across 190 countries have impacted more than 1.5 billion students and youth worldwide. While some higher education players like Boston University have indicated plans to defer the fall semester to January 2021, more than 200 colleges and universities across the US are toying with the possibility of staying on course but moving online.  

Closer to home, India’s Delhi University is considering making the entire admissions process for its 90 colleges and 16 faculties online. Whether the university will be able to hold in-person classes when it reopens in July for its new academic session is anyone’s guess, but colleges elsewhere in the country, including in Tamil Nadu, are deferring final year examinations for the next academic year.  

The modern education system as we know it today was created to support an industrial age. The theory-focused, rote-based model of learning was primed to prepare learners for an industrial age future where they could excel at jobs that require following clear, linear paths and often come with job security and minimal mobility.  

In the information age, we need to reinvent and reimagine learning. We need to educate students to adapt to rapid technological changes. Learning has to be lifelong as students will have multiple careers that make it essential for students to deal with constant change at a faster pace. The future of work will necessitate lifelong learning. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is making clear, what will be needed with even greater urgency in a post-pandemic world are approaches to learning that are more student-centred, competency and skill-driven, and outcome-focussed. An approach to education that provides students with the freedom to apply the skills and knowledge they have picked up as an apprentice at a workplace. A system that embeds flexibility in course structure so that there is a tighter connection between what is taught at university and the skills and competencies that the domestic and global economy needs.  

This is where EdTech has a valuable role to play. It could emerge as a viable platform for continuity during a crisis. Subsequently, it could even complement classroom learning. In fact, EdTech holds the key to the transformation of an “industrial age” education system.  

Yet EdTech cannot replace human expertise. All of the human knowledge is just a click away on a smartphone. But students still need teachers to create quality, context, and content. EdTech only offers powerful platforms that enable continuity in times of social distance. In a post-pandemic world, these could also take schools and colleges into a future where learning is skill-based and outcome-oriented. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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