The pandemic resulting from COVID-19 has impacted our world in nearly every way imaginable. Many people are now working from home, while others have lost their jobs or been furloughed. Public parks and other gathering places have been closed. The Travel and Hospitality industries have had to rethink their offerings. And college campuses have become de facto ghost towns.
The truth is that the novel coronavirus and its global effects are unprecedented phenomena, and we have yet to see what the ultimate impact will be to our daily lives -- for both the near and far-reaching future.
Like many industries, higher education is doing what it can to keep business going. Our global predicament begs simple questions like “When can school and university campuses open again?” to more complicated questions like “How can these organizations continue to operate and educate effectively during the age of quarantine and social distancing?”
Many institutions are rethinking core offerings to accommodate our world’s new reality and those relying on it -- students and faculty. Immediate and long-term implications for teaching, learning, the student experience, infrastructure, operations, and staff all must be considered.
Naturally, the solutions aren’t simple, but one fact is clear: remote learning needs to step up to the occasion -- addressing current challenges and leveraging newfound opportunities.
The pre-pandemic world of remote learning
Remote learning options have existed for many years now, albeit with varying degrees of acceptance. It’s always been considered a poorer cousin to face-to-face learning -- the gold standard. In the minds of most, everything else pales in comparison.
Logistically, the tools that make remote learning possible have existed for quite some time. Unfortunately, many times educators find themselves retrofitting videoconferencing technology to fit the classroom, rather than seeing developers creating tools with them specifically in mind. Up until now, this focus has created a situation where remote learning was an option -- but not the preferred one.
According to recent reports, only 30% of our country’s 1.5 million faculty members have taught a virtual course in the past. . But in 2020 we’ve found ourselves in a situation where remote learning is more than a perk -- it’s essential -- meaning both students and teachers need to adapt.
Online learning has now been afforded a place at the high table of university learning, positioning it for a very different future than what we expected even just weeks ago. Keep reading for a glimpse at some of the challenges we face, as well as some key considerations.
Empathy in the remote learning world
One major consideration developers and educators must keep in mind is that education is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Online learning technology must consider and accommodate the varied learning preferences and styles of both educators and students.
Significant success will come from creating platforms and tools built around the intent of the program, rather than expecting educators to adapt to the limitations and expectations of preexisting software. This focus on the needs of students and educators brings empathy into the experience, which will emerge as a crucial differentiator when universities seek to deliver as real an experience as possible online.
Catching them young: early remote learning
Pandemic or not, our world has been moving toward greater acceptance of remote learning options since they became available -- our new reality has simply kicked that movement into overdrive. As time progresses and we discover our new normal, education will see greater acceptance of online education tools.
This doesn’t stop with higher education, though. We’ll soon begin to see added impact at early learning stages. And because children are more intuitive with technology, having them acclimate to remote learning at an earlier age will prompt greater acceptance of university-level online education.
It’s the ideal opportunity to establish remote learning with younger students who are typically more willing and able to adapt. However, it’s important to keep in mind that educators will also need to learn and adapt to these platforms, both now and in the future. By engaging and supporting both students and future educators early, we’re likely to see greater success and effectiveness for remote learning.
Bridging the digital divide
Any discussion about remote learning wouldn’t be complete without considering one key factor: access. While new and emerging technologies are oftentimes incredible and even game-changing, do they come at the expense of alienating those who cannot afford what the market would consider premium hardware? If a program can only run on a platform that many students don’t have access to, should we consider that a sweeping success?
The true potential of remote learning at the university level will truly be unlocked when it approaches both students and teachers with an attitude of inclusivity. The intent when developing these technologies must be providing education that’s facilitated by technology, rather than being dependent on it. It will take creative solutions to deliver a great learning experience that’s not constrained by income or privilege.
So what’s next?
Nobody in the world is immune to the sweeping changes the educational landscape is seeing now. Online learning is emerging as the biggest differentiator, but there is a catch. It calls for the most disruptive type of change there is -- change in mindset.
The need for educators to adapt their businesses won’t end with them signing up for the latest, greatest remote learning platform. Instead, universities, administrators, teachers, students, and technology folks need to recalibrate their approach to a changed world.
Similar in theory to the concept of flattening the curve for COVID-19, remote learning can flatten its own curve of adoption by both students and educators in a few different ways. It’s only once the industry addresses key topics like acceptance by students and educators, empathy in the development of tools, and realistic access for all students that remote learning can truly deliver for everyone. By doing so, we could witness the beginning of a bold future for remote learning.
Want to learn more about how Wipro is helping educators with swift, steady, and smart remote learning solutions? We’d love to talk.
Director of Higher Education, Wipro
Venkat has over 25 years’ experience with strategy, technology and operations of the education industry. His areas of interest and expertise include higher education management, student retention and digital technology solutions for connected student experience. Venkat has been a speaker at industry events, published several thought leadership articles and has a point of view on most pressing issues faced by the Education industry.