Schools across the globe including elementary, secondary and universities, have made decisions of what the new school year will look like, or are adjusting those decisions as the new school year has progressed. Planned in-person education in certain schools may have had or will have to pivot back to fully remote based on COVID-19 precautions. Some schools made the decision to remain fully remote. Or perhaps schools are implementing or continuing a hybrid of both. We need to find the correct balance between remote learning and the traditional in-person education practices that we are used to seeing. While safety is and should be the top concern, there are other factors that schools should consider when reevaluating decisions made prior to the school year beginning, and also for the future of education in a post-pandemic environment.
There are a mix of results from different decisions made prior to the fall semester of 2020, or reactions to quickly pivot approaches as students began to return. There are schools and institutions of all levels that opened up their campuses to in-person instruction. At the university level, James Madison University in Virginia opened its campus to students in-person in early July, and announced September 1 the school would transition back to full virtual education after a spike in COVID-19 cases. Colgate University in New York State welcomed its 2,500 students back to campus, albeit with strict safety measures. While Harvard University in Massachusetts decided not to send students back for the fall semester and California State University, the country’s largest four-year public university system, announced all 23 campuses will remain closed for the spring 2021 semester. There are also many instances of hybrid approaches such as Georgetown University in Washington, DC that will offer some classes online and others in-person or Brown University in Rhode Island whose plan is to offer a three-term school year where students take turns being on campus.
Once we get through the Coronavirus pandemic and safety is no longer a concern there is a lot, we can learn from being forced into remote learning situations. Remote learning has its advantages as we are forced to use modern day technology to communicate in ways that are sometimes more efficient then in-person. For example, the Complexo Escolar Privado Internacional (CEPI) School in Angola has started using a virtual classroom platform for their 1200 students in K-12. This platform, which can also be used as a Content Management System, contains individual student logins and can be used effectively before the start, during and after the Virtual Classroom Session is completed.
However, we are all social animals, in fact we strive on social interaction. The usage of technology is important, but we still need to find ways to have physical and social interaction while present in or even outside the classroom. It is true that some students may prefer learning from the comfort of their own homes, however a personal relationship that a student develops with a professor for instance cannot be created through a computer screen.
Today’s pandemic opens the doors to a unique opportunity for the future of education which can help Africa in boosting the education system. Rather than separate virtual and in-person learning as two different entities, as we so often do as a society, we should instead combine them, to allow students to have that much needed social interaction without compromising their ability to learn material that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The best of both worlds as they say, a combination of both eLearning (asynchronous) and interpersonal instruction or synchronous learning. This gives students not just one delivery method to reference, but two. With both these methods working with one another, students get to advance their knowledge and capabilities while also improving their emotional intelligence and communication skills. Imperative in a world where is it all about who you know.
In order to have this blended learning strategy executed correctly, you need to include the best attributes that each side has to offer. With the utilization of technology, a school can have smaller classes as technology gives students the ability to learn wherever they feel the most comfortable. This leads to a school being able to gradually increase the number of students that are receiving the same level of education. For students that wish to stay at home, this type of learning will allow them to pace themselves, just by pacing themselves they learn increased levels of accountability due to the fact that an instructor is not there to see if the individual student is keeping pace with the class. Technology does open the door to new learning applications that in-person instruction cannot match. These being YouTube videos, storyline courses or LMS online.
There are however attributes of in-person instruction that technology does not have the ability to match. These being the ability to learn in real time with direct access to the instructor of the course, participating in discussions within the classroom, and the ability to understand certain topics on a deeper level, being surrounded by your fellow peers.
The combination of both methods of learning can be seen as the future of education, with or without a global health pandemic. What results from the interlocking of these methods, is hybrid learning. This is the ideal method to educate students, it offers the best aspects from both online and in-person learning.
By Zandre Campos,
CEO of ABO Capital