Before the pandemic, digital education was primarily used in situations where learning opportunities were curtailed by distance or other factors. The learning ecosystem however was largely based on the in-person instruction model, but everything changed in 2020, including education.
According to a World Economic Forum report published last year, Covid-19 put over 1.2 billion children out of the classroom. And suddenly remote teaching, e-learning, and digital educational platforms started replacing traditional academic modules to provide the continuity that was disrupted by the pandemic.
The upheaval and the aftermath
Digital technology in the post-pandemic world, does not just support traditional education, it is also emerging as the way forward.
Factors to reshape education
- Ability to democratise learning
- Create borderless global classrooms
- Bring infrastructural costs down.
Relevance of remote learning
As an educationist and founder of a borderless, online preschool organisation, I am curious to see if we will revert to the old ways once the upheaval caused by the pandemic is no longer in the equation.
I believe, however, that remote learning will continue to play a big part, and will find new consumers, and will engage minds in hitherto unexplored ways.
The demarcation between virtual models and physical spaces will continue to blur in education and students and educators will continue to rely on technology to expand their horizons.
Digital education best suited during pandemic
For now, digital education is plugging gaps in a world where in-person learning is fraught with risks and seems improbable soon. The risk-control measures by governments continue to lead students all over the world into ‘home-schooling’ situations. Children have had to adapt to new types of learning, and they are adjusting remarkably well.
From my experience, I can say that this has been a journey of discovery and reinvention and though the changes have caused a degree of inconvenience to working parents, what we are now seeing is an era of educational innovation.
The challenges inherent in change
The transformation from brick-and-mortar structures to virtual classrooms, however, has not always offered a smooth transition for either the teaching faculty or the students.
Both have had to innovate and adapt to the demands and challenges of teaching and learning in a new way.
As teachers conduct classes remotely using digital platforms, there has been a significant surge in the usage of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing, and online learning software.
The use of educational technology has transformed classroom teaching but not everyone finds this easy. This means that educators have had to push themselves out of their comfort zones to update their skills in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
Digital platforms became boon in crisis
The good news is that educational professionals, technology providers, and telecom network operators have come together and utilised digital platforms as a solution to the crisis. However, there are still many challenges to overcome.
Effects of digital divide
The issue of the sprawling digital divide, for instance, must be addressed. Students without reliable access to the internet and/or technology, struggle to participate in digital learning.
There is obviously a significant gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds. Many are concerned that the pandemic will widen the digital divide and limit opportunities for underserved populations.
We need to collectively address this issue because as I said earlier, digital modules have the potential to democratise education.
How effective is online learning?
Now, we come to the next big question. Is online learning a good substitute for in-person learning? Well, children use their senses extensively to learn, hence, it is crucial that we make digital learning fun, effective and engaging to maximize its benefits.
For young children, integration of games in preschool education ensures higher engagement and increased interest in online learning.
Researches also suggest that online learning increases quick retention of information even among older children. This signifies that students retain 25-60 per cent more information when learning online compared to 8-10 per cent retention in a classroom setting.
While learning online, students can also learn at their own pace, go back and re-read what they need, skip irrelevant parts or accelerate through their study material.
What about the future?
The pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to ensure that students and educators develop new skills and has brought with it a mixed bag of advantages and challenges. I believe, to keep up with the fast-evolving world, we will need in the future, a new and hybrid model of education, where traditional offline learning and e-learning can go together.
This will give students a holistic experience where they can benefit from both kinds of modules. Blended learning formats are here to stay and I have no doubt that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education.
I believe that in the future, flexible education will lead to more informed decision-making, creative problem solving, and the ability to adapt to changes in an increasingly unpredictable world.
Written by Rajesh Bhatia, founder and CEO of TreeHouse Education & Accessories Ltd