Responses from Jon Roepke, director of product management, Belkin International, Inc.
Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?
The impacts from COVID-19 are yet to be fully understood. Among them, we are already experiencing changes to emergency planning protocols and training, planning for students, families tackling challenges to distance and online learning.
Although there are promising shifts toward experimental virtual learning efforts, the pandemic is forcing quick adoption of virtual learning on a wide scale out of sheer necessity. It’s one massive experiment where we’ll see the ways it can work, and the ways it doesn’t such as ensuring students actually show up to (virtual) class! One thing is for certain, students are going to become Zoom experts.
Another related outcome that we see signs of is a new wave of technology innovations and services catering to an always-on-virtual learning environment. Investors and VCs are re-evaluating where to put their money in this current climate and are adjusting investments to companies addressing core infrastructure issues. Education definitely fits that bill.
Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic? If so, what will that look like? Will some educational entities move beyond physical classrooms altogether?
We’ve ramping up distance learning adoption over the past decade. Challenges are largely tied to income and technology disparity where private or charter schools are able to more readily support this model. While distance learning could bring new and engaging ways to conduct a classroom, it also opens up broader questions about what will replace in-person social activities, virtual group projects, and more. Socialization is still an important part of growing up and education.
What’s next for education?
Over time, we will likely move to a hybrid mode. In-classroom learning serves a multitude of purposes that include crucial learning but also a place for kids to socialize with other children. If everything moves virtual and online it would still require some sort of supervision depending on the age group. There are successful virtual classroom models that work with smaller groups of students, resembling an alternate type of home schooling.
In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?
The future has to be interactive. We’re already seeing momentum in edutainment with VR and AR experimental learning. We expect this to increase and have heard from teachers all across the country who are very excited about the educational potential these technologies can provide. No longer are students and their imaginations limited by what’s in the textbook – why read about the pyramids when you can be transported in front of them for a virtual field trip? VR headsets and gear will become as common as Chromebooks and tablets already are in the classroom.