In March 2020, student learning and the collective teaching experience worldwide came to an unprecedented change during the school year’s early days, with school teachers and students facing nation-wide brick and mortar school closures. By the end of March, the OECD estimated that over 421 million children were affected by school closures in 39 countries, with an additional 22 countries enforcing partial closures at the time.
This ever-expanding virtual classroom creates uncertainty and anxiety for educators and students alike. However, the rise of online classrooms also raises thoughts of how the pandemic will affect education on a larger scale, especially as we look to education in the near and distant future.
Distance education upturned old educational models
Academic institutions at all levels can be slow when it comes to change. Even in our tech-savvy and connected world, schools at all levels rely on lecture-based teaching methods, which on their own can fall short in preparing students for the demands of the modern world.
There’s no question that the global pandemic has changed the way students are receiving education information, whether it’s online education or in-person. While we may see these changes first hand in Canada and the United States through online classes, there have been critical changes to education seen worldwide as well:
- Hong Kong students affected by the pandemic began receiving more instruction at home through interactive apps and cloud-based websites.
- China granted 120 million students access to learning materials via live television broadcasts, rather than just online instruction or online course materials.
- A school in Nigeria began using began incorporating online learning tools such as Google classroom with face-to-face video instruction for remote learning.
- Students in Lebanon began using online learning for non-core classes such as PE, posting videos of their fitness activities.
These are just some of the creative and practical ways technology is being used to rectify drastic changes in education caused by the pandemic. Soon, technology such as 5G connectivity, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and more will soon be ubiquitous in the classroom - both physical and virtual ones alike. Like all significant global occurrences, the pandemic will spearhead creative and technological advancements for public and private education, higher education and even special education.
Fundamental teaching methods & approaches will transform
For decades there have been controversial debates surrounding the traditional teaching and grading methods. Suggested changes such as adapting testing methods, focusing on student health and well-being and relying more on blended learning models are all concepts being implemented to some degree since the pandemic began.
For example, many institutions have had to give their students “pass/fail” options or allow them to drop courses without facing academic consequences. As mentioned above, we’ve seen students rely more on creative uses of technology to demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency using videos and apps.
Will students go back to a physical classroom?
The pandemic won’t necessarily bring the end of the traditional schooling system altogether; however, it will bring about the beginning of a world where remote learning and online teaching become more integrated with conventional classroom models. Whether in a full-time or part-time capacity, students and teachers can expect that the classroom has changed for good.
We will see a shift from standard testing being the primary tool for assessing progress and for students to demonstrate their knowledge. This shift will allow future generations to personalize their education like never before.
Teaching for an online world will continue to grow and develop in the same way distance learning has evolved since its inception.
Today, online teachers have hurdles to overcome to keep their classroom experience seamless and interactive. Still, minimizing pain points through technology, open lines of communication and flexibility when the unexpected occurs are all ways to mitigate challenges brought on by pandemic learning.