Most countries across the world have temporarily closed down educational institutions as a means to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Figures show that about 1.3-1.5 billion students have been affected by the closure of their schools and universities, impacting about 72% of the world’s student population.
The pandemic has made online education a buzzword. Online classes are the current trend in education, however, classes held over Zoom, Google Meets or Microsoft Teams cannot be equated to online education. While these classes have ensured some level of engagement between the teachers and students, this virtual replication of the classroom has actually resulted in bored students and exhausted teachers. Online education system requires a robust digital infrastructure which goes beyond virtual classrooms that includes labs, assessments, examinations, tools for communication and collaboration, and provide analytics for instructors, institutions, students and parents.
Here, it is also important to say that the physical classrooms will not go away any time soon, and so what is needed is a blended learning model that incorporates both online and classroom teaching and doesn’t segregate them into two different watertight compartments.
While the use of technology is increasing in the education domain, the COVID pandemic has accelerated the speed of its adoption, impacting all forms of learning. In the post-COVID era, while educational institutions will still be around, they would have to collaborate with eLearning development companies to improve the overall efficacy of the education system and student performance. In fact, with the initial shock wearing off, it is seen that school administrators, parents, teachers and students are now preparing for an academic life that includes both traditional and disruptive learning.
Related Read: K-12 Education in the Post-COVID Era
While new perspectives, new learnings and new trends in education will emerge as we head into unchartered waters, here are a few current trends in higher education that have taken roots and are likely to grow in the near future.
Adoption of Digital Technology
All schools and higher education institutions will have to adopt digital technology to make education more student-centric, empower their teachers, and improve their processes. It is common knowledge that each student learns at their own pace. The current trends in education will see data and technology play a crucial role in personalizing lessons for the students.
Teachers have been using the lockdown period to coach their students through remote classes and provide lessons and homework online. Going further, they would have to learn and adopt technology to upgrade their skills and engage their students. They would also have to prepare the students for this new situation and equip the parents to their new roles and responsibilities so that they can manage the online education of their children at home.
Digital education will only succeed if there is massive re-education of teachers to change their mindsets and be adaptive to new innovative pedagogies and technology-based student-teacher interaction. Adoption of technology would also redefine their roles from a knowledge-giver to a facilitator supporting students on their own learning journeys. Besides, technology would be used effectively to perform tasks such as paper-setting, assessments and grading. With more free time at hand, they could focus more on teaching and course improvement.
Adoption of the Blended Learning Approach
While the physical classroom will remain, it will be supplemented with online coursework. The students will be expected to attend classes on a few days and be free to study at their own pace on the others. Since there is little or no supervision at home, the students will have to develop a high level of self-discipline to complete prior preparation and as well as post-online class sessions to assimilate the information and remain in sync with the rest of the class.
Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Although AI has made inroads in education, its adoption and use will be fast-tracked by the COVID pandemic. Educators have already discarded the one-size-fits-all approach – the hallmark of the traditional classroom, in favor of digital technology to provide a personalized learning experience to each student. The blended learning approach to learning will give the students the opportunity to engage with different types of content such as audio, video, presentations, webinars, and podcasts, thereby increasing their ability to engage with the content.
Adoption of Micro-learning
The rules of the game are totally different when it comes to designing online courses and curriculum. In tune with the current trends in education, educators would have to repackage their course content in small bite-sized modules, usually in the form of audio or video, is about 3 to 5 minutes long and contains concise information about a particular topic. Students can consume microlearning content anywhere and anytime.
Besides, microlearning ensures that there is no cognitive overload and students can better grasp and retain learning for the long-term. Since microlearning content can be consumed while on the go, the courseware also has to be designed for all types of accessibility platforms including tablets, laptops, PCs and the mobile. In fact, mobile learning is another fast-emerging new education trend that will gain momentum in the post-COVID era.
Focus on Greater Interactivity
Physical classrooms score over virtual classrooms as they offer higher interactivity among the teachers and students. These interactions help to break the monotony and also satisfy students’ need to socialize. While the current trends in higher education support collaboration, educators will need to add more elements of interactivity and collaboration in their online courses.
Introduction of Short-term, Skill-based Courses
The changing socio-economic scenario brought about by the pandemic has led to massive job losses. To remain agile and relevant to the workplace, higher education students would have to continuously update themselves with industry-ready courses. Schools and colleges would also have to impart the right skills to the students so they remain relevant in the long term.
A shift from traditional learning to online learning will also necessitate investment in infrastructure development. As said above, online learning does not replicate traditional learning, and remote learning, as we are witnessing today on Zoom and smartphones has only added to the woes of the students and teachers. Technology enablement, along with supporting infrastructure such as a learning management system will ensure seamless delivery in online and blended learning classes. Remote collaboration tools and high-speed networks will further facilitate learning both in and away from the campus.
Related Read: Ensuring Continuity in Learning in the Times of COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold one thing has become clear and that is online education is here to stay. While several studies have been forecasting this for long, it is this ongoing pandemic that has brought about a tectonic shift, driving students away from the campuses and confining them to their homes. So, what does this mean for educational institutions, academic leaders, policymakers and administrators? The world as we know it is set to radically change for the long term. Education today stands highly disaggregated with both faculty and students grappling with new norms and completely tech-based learning.
While half-hearted attempts have been made to cross over to online learning, the pandemic has necessitated educational institutions to take the plunge, adopt digital technology and create new models of learning. The new trends in education will also change the current role of teachers from knowledge givers to facilitators, and give students greater control over their learning, thus, making them more disciplined, independent, self-driven and tech-enabled learners.
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