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The Virtual World of Education and How we can adapt to it
COVID- 19 brought many changes to the world. We went from more traditional onsite classrooms to virtual ones, forcing teachers to adjust their learning methodologies. The change at this scale was unprecedented, though it wasn’t impossible. We had the technology, we even had examples with the vast range of online courses that were already available. The difference was that we were suddenly dealing with children of all ages, who were used to traditional classroom settings and more importantly, a traditional ‘teacher guided’ way of learning.
Was the change that COVID brought a bad thing?
Without a doubt, there were problems. Especially as the need for stable internet connections meant that there were many children at a disadvantage. According to the World Economic Forum, only “about 65% of lower-middle income countries and less than 25% of low income countries have been able to set up remote learning platforms” and “only 36% of residents of lower-middle income countries have access to the internet.”
This led to a rising inequality in the education system, with the disadvantaged children falling behind and many dropping out of schools altogether. According to a UN policy brief from this year, about “23.8 million additional children and youth (from pre-primary to tertiary) may drop out or not have access to school” as a result of the pandemic’s impact.
But these problems can be solved to ensure that we maximize the benefits of the current situation to aid future generations. If managed correctly, the growing dependence on online education could help with a much-needed transition in the education system.
The pandemic is creating a situation where educators have to consider how the world needs to move away from some of the old practices to deal with the world as it will be in the future. As discussed in the WEF Report from 2019, we are entering the fourth industrial revolution, and as such we need to change our education system from one that focuses on a ‘standardized model of direct learning’ to one that develops 21st century skills. The focus of the education system can’t just be on basic foundational skills, it needs to enhance them. We need to help students develop the digital and social-emotional skills along with critical and individual thinking skills, so that they can cope with and contribute to an increasingly innovation driven economy.
We need to remember that technology is a means to an end. It can’t solve education gaps; it can help leaders to enable new approaches to cope with the current situation and train students for the future.
The reality that we are dealing with
The shift to virtual classrooms is encouraging a more blended approach to learning. As Wang Tao, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and Vice President of Tencent Education said, the “online education will eventually become an integral component of school education. “
Educationalists are being encouraged to continue interacting with the students and ‘teach’ as if they were in an onsite classroom. But they are having to find ways of using technology to make sure that the classes are synchronous and asynchronous- online tests, zoom classes, learning management systems, are all becoming a staple in the education system.
The issue is that using technology in a classroom to increase the interaction and provoke thinking is one thing. But having to encourage students to ‘learn’ online, when the teacher is not there watching or motivating them to study is another. Especially when you consider the fact that not every parent has the time or the educational background to guide their child in this new way of learning.
As a result, teachers need to consider how to design an effective learning experience for their students. Not all students are the same, they won’t have the same level of resources or learn at the same pace. As the pandemic has forced global experimentation with remote teaching, educationalists are trying to adapt to the new norm.
Increasing the effectiveness of the classes
Online learning can actually help students to retain the material better than when they are in the classroom. This is because they are able to study at their own pace; go back to the recorded lectures and review the material; and accelerate through the concepts that they understand, so they can focus on the ones that they do not.
Teaching online cuts the time that you have with your students, when you account for disruptions and the fact that it’s harder to focus. The points outlined below will help you to make the most of the time that you have!
- Remember to have Live interactions
It’s important to avoid falling into the trap of simply assigning work and expecting results. Remember, teaching is more than assigning content. It’s about interacting with the students and judging whether they understand a concept based on the way that they respond to you.
You aren’t able to meet them in a classroom setting anymore, so hold regular live interactions with them. Make sure that you have them put their videos on- body language is just as important as hearing their answers when you’re teaching! And then encourage them to talk, have questions ready that will provoke their thinking and help you to gauge their learning so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your teaching- just as you would in an onsite class.
- Try to make the classes more interactive
Remember, when you are teaching online it’s harder to keep the students’ attention. It’s easier for them to space or become distracted by whatever is around them. They aren’t in a classroom and you have little to no control over them. To keep their attention, you’ll need to find ways to keep them engaged. Making the lesson interactive, instead of lecture- based is important. Give them activities, ask them questions- keep them on their toes so that they pay attention.
Making the class interactive will also help you to build their thinking skills. Push them to evaluate, to analyse instead of handing them content to memorise. You have all of the internet at the disposal, use it to your advantage!
- Stick to Bite-size learning content
Virtual teaching pushes us to be more focused- it’ll help you to keep track and focus on skills-based teaching instead of just the content. It’ll also help the students to focus and understand the material and activities. Your content should be ‘bite-sized’, that is it should have a single objective and focus on the information that the learner needs to achieve that objective.
- Don’t forget to create regular checkpoints
To make sure that the students understand what they’ve been taught, it’s important to have regular checkpoints incorporated into the curriculum. Give them reflection exercises to see if they’ve understood the material and are progressing the way that they should be. If there’s a concept or an idea that the majority of the class is struggling with, review it before moving on.
The Leaders of Learning course is here to help you!
As professionals in the education sector, we’re all stuck in a situation that’s quite daunting. Yes, it’s true that changes in the education system were needed and they were coming our way. But COVID-19 sped up the pace of that change and forced us to make those changes fairly quickly. As educationalists, we had to go on our own learning journey even as we guided as students through the changes. This journey won’t stop, but it will require us to change the way that we approach education.
As such, we need to adopt ‘design thinking’, where we focus on a more solution-based approach to solving problems. It’ll help us to adjust the way that we approach the current, and future challenges, so that we can improve the way that we teach and learn.
This will help us to ensure that we are giving the future generations the best education, and thus the highest chance of success, we need to make sure that educationalists are comfortable with this new way of teaching.
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