The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on our economy and our usual way of living. In addition to its mandatory shut down of business across the world, the virus has also impacted the education sector. And, some professionals are saying that education and learning methods might be changed for good.
Across our global society, over 1.2 billion students in more than 180 countries were impacted by the pandemic and immediately transitioned into online, virtual learning environments. For several months now, students have been learning in their own homes and have had to make substantial adjustments to their regular routine to practice safe social distancing. Sports events, dances, and other social activities were cancelled, and large graduation ceremonies are remaining prohibited. While the transition out of the classroom happened on a global scale, many countries had a difference in timing when it came to the spread of the disease and government-mandated shutdowns. Some countries, like Denmark and Germany, are slowly transitioning back into semi-normal education patterns, while others like the U.S, are still learning virtually from home.
Virtual and online learning is a process that a lot of students were familiar with, pre-pandemic. Although in most cases, it wasn’t a mandatory requirement, many studies and students have proven that there are various benefits to online learning and education technology (ed-tech). In a recent WeForum article, Wang Tao, VP of Tencent Education, said: “I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education.” According to the article, despite the lack of physically being in a classroom, both educators and their students are finding virtual classrooms to be just as, if not more efficient when it comes to communication. Edtech advancements like instant messaging, video conferencing lessons, and document sharing have made virtual communication methods just as effective as traditional methods of learning.
While we’re finding that there are some benefits to virtual learning, like anything else, there are also distinct disadvantages. One of the more common challenges for students transitioning to virtual classrooms is a lack of necessary resources. In many lower-income countries, students don’t always have direct access to the right technology or even internet access; both of which are essential for online learning. This digital divide is being seen across multiple countries, and although some education systems can provide students with the necessary resources, others are unable. UNCTAD’s technology and logistics director, Shamika Sirimanne stated in a recent article: “This situation has significant development implications that cannot be ignored. We need to ensure that we do not leave those who are less digitally equipped even further behind in a post-coronavirus world.”