Is Large Scale Online Education Going To Be Permanent Fixture In Post-COVID World?

As governments scramble to contain the pandemic, schools, colleges and universities are forced to shut down.

The world as we know it might never be the same again. Massive lockdowns imposed by countries across the world have made this the largest social experiment to ever be conducted. What does this then mean for how we live, connect, work and learn? Education, as a sector, is certainly pegged to witness massive shifts.  

As governments scramble to contain the pandemic, schools, colleges and universities are forced to shut down. According to a UNESCO report, 290 million students across 22 countries will be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. To avoid disrupting students’ future, several institutions are running classes virtually, pushing online education to the forefront, almost overnight.   

Many are calling COVID-19, a Black Swan moment for education. Borrowed from the American thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the term is used to describe unanticipated events that have profound consequences.   

What does this mean for the future of learning?   

What opportunities does it open up for both educational institutions and online learning platforms across the world?  

How can institutions leverage technology to ensure students’ prospects don't get affected?

This seems like the big push online educators needed to truly practice and model skilling and learning around digital models. Online learning has been around for over a decade now, but online learning has had its task cut out on many fronts - student adoption, academic credibility and the sense of community and interaction.  

However, now more than ever, with work from home and virtual meetings becoming standard tools for most people, parents, students and faculty alike, it will impact the way education and learning are delivered at scale in the future. The coronavirus pandemic may lead to higher, more immediate opportunities in EdTech for advanced countries who have the required capabilities.  

In India, a different challenge can become a bigger opportunity. As a country, we can’t afford the financial investment and time needed to implement traditional, offline models. We just don’t have the resources to build that many classrooms or have as many teachers. Online isn’t an option anymore, we will have to take advantage of online even sooner.  

Of course, how learners adapt and react to the new model of learning will play a key role in its adoption. For example, China had recently launched classes on DingTalk, a Chinese messaging app for universities. But because it gave teachers the ability to monitor students remotely, many students rated the app badly, forcing them to suspend their services. Moreover, young learners today have access to more knowledge than earlier generations. They are able to grasp the content in a way that was unprecedented in more traditional classrooms.  

Young professionals are another segment flocking to EdTech platforms. Worried about possible job losses, many are trying to pick up new skills that they hope will serve them well if the economy hits a new low. Several also realize that technical knowledge may no longer be enough to chart a successful career, as cognitive and behavioural skills become important to grasp changes in the way we think and work. Undoubtedly, the time to build and cater to 21st-century learners and modern workplaces is now.  

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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