The education sector changed drastically in 2020. The switch to online and distance learning challenged decades of traditional wisdom and required teachers and students alike to change how they approached learning. Whether parents were home-schooling kids and working from home, or students were tuning into virtual lectures through Microsoft Teams and Zoom, schools, colleges, and universities had to move quickly to prevent students falling behind during COVID lockdowns.
School During a Global Pandemic
These educational institutions worked hard to deliver the best experience possible for students in such difficult times. We've now reached the point where colleges and universities are beginning to open up again, but some children still have to stay at home due to transmission potential. Perhaps one set of kids is working in a school, and another is using digital tools to learn from home.
Even as vaccines slowly roll out, there isn't likely to be an imminent shift back to the "good old days." If anything, we should consider taking the chance to change how education works for now and for the future.
Changing Education’s Status Quo
While most students would prefer to return to campus and stay there, over a third of students said they would like to see a hybrid model combining online and on-campus education. Some even said they wanted to keep the remote learning model for the future, but this future isn't viable for many students – particularly those with developmental and learning disorders.
Even so, technology can – and will – continue to shape the future of education for students worldwide.
As encouraging as distance learning results have been, making a change when forced to forms only one part of the broader challenge, another challenge is learning from the mistakes and understanding why distance learning didn't work at times. Nearly half of all students report being unable to access remote classes before the pandemic, meaning they had just as much trouble keeping up with their education during these difficult times.
How to Improve Virtual Learning
The answer to the problem is to craft a long-term strategy to give students and teachers the technology they need. However, we should focus on how students have adapted to distance learning and how we can accommodate their new habits.
Employers and educators alike have learned the importance of cultural and technological shifts. These changes were necessary to fuel home and hybrid working and learning. Students and educational institutes must undergo a similar shift in cultural expectations and norms. People must change how they approach delivering and receiving education to make the change effective.
For educators, this means delivering education based on students' expectations and needs. This could mean using the cloud to ensure all students have access to the same applications and files they need for work. Cloud computing also simplifies and enhances adding new computers and files to university networks, giving all students access to the materials they need.
There is an obvious need for online environments for educators that can be up and running at a moment's notice while still being free and accessible for those that need it. We've made significant progress in the past year or so, and this could only be the beginning of a technological revolution in education.