Is Online Learning the ‘New Normal’ and the Future of the Educational Landscape?

ICT

05, November 2020

The race for advancement is seen in almost every sector, and academic institutions like schools, colleges, and universities, are in the same league. However, many educational bodies are struggling with the transition from traditional modes of teaching to virtual learning systems. Developed nations have already been at the forefront of technological implementation; however, for developing economies, it still remains a distant dream.

The Never-Seen-Before Switch

The unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has majorly affected the education sector, worldwide. This never-seen-before situation compelled to strategize an out-of-the-box solution, with less or no time to prepare. The transition from offline learning to online happened overnight, with the announcement of the lockdown. Based on a Wall Street Journal article, 1.5 billion children in the world have been forced to learn online owing to school closures. Thus, in the last few months, despite their reluctance, online education has become the norm in a majority of the nations.

Whether schools should permanently embrace e-learning, or is this just a measure to deal with the ongoing situation, is highly debatable. Besides, nations are dealing with the prevention of mass spreading, schools and other academic institutions are less likely to reopen soon. This means that online learning is here to stay, at least for a long while.

The Fight Back

Based on a Triton Market Research study, it is expected that the global smart education & learning system market will observe a growth trend with 16.90% CAGR in the coming future. The smart learning sector is not only limited to school and college students. Many working professionals are also actively polishing their skills, with the help of MOOC platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy, among others. This period has witnessed the exponential rise of the Ed-Tech industry, with several new companies emerging, and the already existent players stepping up their game.

For instance, in April 2020, the US-based Blackboard Inc launched Blackboard Unite for K-12, a remote learning solution. It is a holistic suite of tools and resources developed to provide K-12 districts with the best practices needed for a virtual learning environment.

The use of telepresence robots has also gained momentum. Distance learning students are increasingly implementing these devices to gain a better learning experience. Unlike video conferencing calls, telepresence robots enable them to gain complete control of their virtual operations. According to Oregon State University, distance learning becomes a much more engaging and interactive process with the help of telepresence robots.

In recent years, intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) have gained immense popularity in the United States. This has led to several students demanding tutoring services. These tools enable effective learning through customized instruction and feedback based on the students’ needs. And they also eliminate the need for human instructors or teachers.Artificial intelligence plays a crucial role in the development of these systems. A recent research by Carnegie Mellon University puts forth that, now, teachers can easily develop ITSs with the help of AI technology. Moreover, along with lectures, even tests and examinations are being conducted online. Therefore, to authenticate the users’ identity & maintain transparency, biometrics has become the go-to solution.

Challenges vs. Opportunities: Analysis

Smart learning is the future of education. A student-centric approach is the prime benefit offered by this method. Further, the current scenario has shown us the flexibility offered in terms of time and location. Overall, well-developed processes enable faster, smoother learning. A carefully charted plan creates an interactive and collaborative environment, making the learning process more fun.

On the flip side, e-learning brings along numerous challenges. Technical system glitches may interrupt the flow of teaching, and widen the already existent gap. People living in remote areas may face power shortages. Also, the teachers, who were accustomed to teaching in-person until recently, may find it challenging to manage an online class. Institutional authorities need to devise and adopt a different approach to teaching, ensuring that every student benefits from it. Further, in developing nations, many students are not privileged to access the latest technologies. This problem further aggravates the impact on parents’ incomes, as a result of the volatile job market.

Effective Measures to Minimize the Digital Divide

Smartphone penetration is significantly high, even in emerging economies. Therefore, even though everyone may not have access to computers and laptops, players in the Ed-Tech market must ensure that their tools run effectively on mobile phones. This is a potential opportunity to innovate and bring about a radical change in nearly all the aspects associated with virtual education.

Smartphone penetration is significantly high, even in emerging economies. Therefore, even though everyone may not have access to computers and laptops, players in the Ed-Tech market must ensure that their tools run effectively on mobile phones. This is a potential opportunity to innovate and bring about a radical change in nearly all the aspects associated with virtual education.

The Government of India has launched the ‘Swayam,’ online education portal, with an aim to increase the adoption of digital learning practices and ensure digital equity. It offers several free courses for school, graduate, and postgraduate-level education and other distance learning programs.

As educators and learners are gradually adapting to the ‘new normal,’ it is important to formulate proper measures to improve the system and prepare for the future.

Analyzing students’ performance and addressing their needs and expectations will go a long way in formulating an effective strategy for the coming months. This includes proper arrangements for online learning, and equal importance to training the teachers, in order to improve the current processes.

Reforming education policies is an essential step to be taken by government bodies. These new policies should focus on overall student development, than just subject knowledge. In fact, in July 2020, India’s Union Cabinet approved the new ‘National Education Policy,’ which is intended to make sweeping changes to the country’s current education system, and promote experiential learning and critical thinking.

Final Thoughts:

The unpredicted COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of online learning. It is crucial to learn from these mistakes and be ready to face unexpected challenges for a better future. The objective should be to formulate an innovative line of approach, involving two-way participation from both instructors as well as students, and with the right vision, it becomes easier to achieve the desired goals.

Triton Market Research
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