Tag: COVID-19

Virtual Learning Is Changing Education: Here’s What We’ve Learned

Andrew Gaent

By Andrew Gaent, CEO, Wyzant.

Even prior to COVID-19, online tutoring had become the norm. However, many students and parents were still hesitant. Now 100% of lessons are happening online, with all the real-time interaction that you’d experience in-person.

COVID-19 has changed the way that school is taught in America, at least for the foreseeable future. Online classrooms, parent-assisted homeschooling, and academic “dips” are just a few of the challenges that teachers and students face today. Now, more than ever, educators and parents have discovered a need to be armed with strategies to engage students to not only keep their attention but help them navigate this seismic change in learning delivery methods.

What lessons have we learned from the transition to virtual learning?

As schools begin to consider plans for reopening across America, parents, teachers, students and administrators are looking to evaluate what worked when schools closed this past spring, and what didn’t. What they find will help to inform decisions around how to incorporate social distancing and online learning into traditional K-12 education in the future. Here are a few of the lessons that the transition out of the classroom and into virtual learning has taught us about how kids learn, both in the school building and online.

  1. There isn’t one style of teaching that works for every student

Rather than choosing only one method of teaching, it’s important to consider each learning style to create an environment that boosts the value for all types of students. In a virtual learning situation, teachers find that using tools such as digital breakout rooms for group discussions, having a real-life whiteboard to write on versus a slide show, adding videos, using interactive polls, and group activities can help connect and engage students who are used to face-to-face interactions.

  1. Virtual classrooms can help teachers connect with every student

One unique opportunity in the virtual classroom is making interaction easier for shy and introverted students who may not normally participate heavily in person. Educators can use a roll-call system to call on each student to respond to a prompt and make sure each person is involved. Virtual classrooms and technology allow teachers to connect with students in innovative, new ways that can increase engagement, an important step in helping kids retain the information that is being presented.

  1. Students need encouragement and empathy to keep them engaged

In normal times, teachers create lesson plans that are delivered to kids face-to-face. Now, these same lessons are being delivered virtually and often there is a gap between the teacher-created information and the child’s ability to comprehend the material. In traditional classrooms, this would be handled by the teacher. In the virtual learning space, online tutors have stepped in to help fill this void with supplemental materials and a personalized approach to learning that can help a student continue academic progress, even away from the traditional school building.

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Virtual Learning In The New Educational Age

Responses from Wayne Bovier, founder and CEO, Higher Digital.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

(Higher Digital) Most institutions have treated and viewed online courses and programs as a nice-to-have. The long-term impact for every school should make it clear that distance/online learning is a must have especially for the enduring viability and health of the institution. Education and training needs are increasing within every industry, but accessibility and affordability for most institutions has been a lower priority outside of their current business model. Institutions need to incorporate their IT strategy into their short and long-term strategy of the institution —and I think that more will be open to such changes after the challenges of responding to COVID-19.

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?

Yes, institutions must make sure that they can keep operations going while supporting and continuing to teach their students regardless of location, and many more will take this seriously now. In a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 will continue to impact in-person classes and schooling while there is still a search for a vaccine, so it’s critical to continue to invest in improving their online operations, support, and outcomes that also improve their accessibility and affordability.

Non-verbal communications are 95% of communications; in addition, learning and engaging with classmates in-person remain valuable.  What will happen is that more students overall will have access to courses and programs. To make this a possibility, institutions should consider broadening their offerings to make distance learning as meaningful and engaging as they possibly can. This in turn will also help institutions to expand their recruiting and enrollment pool.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

“The gap between in-person and distance learning will continue to shrink as technology innovation becomes more immersive. The demand from students, both traditional and non-traditional, and employers continues to increase, but as an industry, higher education has been slow to embrace and expand digital investment that delivers on a strategic mission. In other words, higher education has been too focused on tactical and operational technology investments – important investments but ones that have proven to fall short in the wake of COVID-19. While most schools currently provide a hybrid teaching experience of online and in-person learning, technology must play a larger role moving forward.”

Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 On Education

Responses from Sabari Raja, co-founder and CEO, Nepris.  

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

Many school districts were unprepared for long-term remote instruction, and unexpected school closures have shed some light on the need for a robust virtual learning strategy that takes effectiveness and ease of use into account without sacrificing safety. Most districts have struggled with integrating live instruction and have so far only offered asynchronous modes of learning, which creates a huge gap and leaves many kids behind.

Technology solution providers now have an opportunity to step up and help bridge this gap. It’s clear that virtual learning will be the “new normal” moving forward. Technology becomes a must-have in supporting these new models of teaching and learning.

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?

This experience should permanently shift the educational roadmap, with the continuation of remote learning in some capacity. Physical classrooms are not going to go away anytime soon, but small group instruction and blended models with some in-person classes, combined with remote instruction, could become the new reality. Maybe high school will start looking more like a college campus where students are not stuck to a classroom all day and all week long. They have more flexibility in what classes they take and when they take them.

The biggest issue with adapting to remote learning is classroom management, safety, and security. There is a fear of virtual classrooms due to this lack of control; however, most of these fears can be addressed with adequate teacher training. This summer is going to be a crucial time for districts to choose the right tools, train their teachers, and be prepared to continue distance learning in some capacity going forward. Adequate Teacher PD is going to be a determining factor in the success of adapting to distance learning.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

The future could be a hybrid of in-person instruction and technology-driven remote learning. We have an opportunity to use technology not just for teacher-led instruction but also to bring industry connections and real-world learning to students that traditionally had very limited access to people and places outside of their communities. Technology can also provide self-paced learning opportunities for students who don’t do very well in traditional classroom environments.

Virtual learning has been proven to offer the flexibility and adaptability for students who are balancing many things outside of school, whether it is socio-economic factors, the requirements of competitive sports, or different learning styles. These models and tools have been in practice before COVID-19 within a few groups, but now the vast majority have had to embrace these solutions very quickly.

At Nepris, our goal has been to use our expertise in virtual platforms to adapt quickly to provide distance learning tools for virtual classroom, real-world learning, and to support virtual summer events, such as internships and job shadows, while keeping in mind that successful teacher training is vital.

Providing Education In Troubling Times

Response Dr. Leah Hanes, CEO, Two Bit Circus Foundation

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

Education just may get a much-needed revolution. Parents have been forced to know more about their child’s education than ever before. Students who are self-motivated and interested in learning, or just plain curious, will be fine. Those parents need only put the challenge in front of that child and the child will engage. A good approach for the parents of this child is to open the field of options — expose, prompt, respond, encourage and most importantly, get out of the way and let the child lead. 

For parents whose children don’t like school, don’t think they need it, find none of it interesting, this is where the deepest challenge exists. All of which may be the result of a faulty education system souring children. Take a look at the 20-30 somethings with kids in high school, middle school, and for that matter, elementary school, who are suffering from stress-related issues and are often described as rebellious, lazy, or checked-out. This group will likely see the greatest challenges in the aftermath of COVID-19. But then, this group was going to have the roughest time anyway. These are the parents who will be met with real challenges.

The parents who have success connecting or re-connecting with their child during this ‘stay at home’ order will have a different view of the future of the classroom. These parents will be navigating and creating an educational program that works for both the parent and the child. If the parents evaluate their level of engagement and acknowledge that they stepped up when needed, they will look at distance learning with less trepidation. If the child is given an environment in which to flourish, it is often this kind of comfort that nurtures curiosity. 

There will be a percentage of parents who may decide that the flexibility of distance learning is perfect for their family lifestyle. Others will miss the structure. If the student in the home is motivated to remain in a distance learning situation, they will be motivated to keep up with the work. The kids who are socially motivated will want to be with friends on campus. The less social group often find their communities online and distance learning is another version of that online world. 

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?

I do think that many schools will be moving beyond the physical classroom. This is an opportunity for parents to help the child take agency over their education. They can agree on deliverables and the child can set the times they will work on those deliverables. They need to learn concepts and applications, what order that happens is only important with the basics. We need the child to know an alphabet, numbers, and we need them to be curious. Much of this will come naturally given the right environment.

Imagine distance learning from the perspective of a person who is medically not able to take part in the broader community. In the distance learning ecosystem, this person is on par with their classmates. No one needs to know any physical or medical challenges. Rural students could have access to education that was unavailable a generation ago. Distance learning blurs demographics. Offering education at the pace of the student without the stigma of a slower learner or (sometimes even more damaging) a gifted child.

Home school numbers have been growing without this pandemic. I do believe there will be challenges to school-as-usual once parents have a close eye on the education being offered to their children at their current institute. There was a joke floating around the Internet the first week of the stay-at-home initiative that said: “Millions of parents are about to learn that the teacher was not the problem.” This can be a painful lesson for a parent, and a deeper dive into the learning behaviors of their kids and how to improve these can help strengthen the overall education system, whether it be from a physical classroom or a digital environment 

I don’t see this as panic-stricken hype. I think it is a worthy question to consider. Should it go the way of the dinosaur? Do we really need kids educated by age? What if we had a range of topics that students were involved in and they worked with older and younger students to learn those skills, similar to the real world where we are charged with tasks that require us to work with people not only of different age brackets but different socio-economic realities, ethnicities, and so much more. What if the in-person-classroom goes away and kids gather in digital–classroom sessions with attendance dependent on interests that start with introductory information and travel up the chain to expert level. 

What is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

Imagine the best teachers on each subject teaching millions of kids. There are teachers out there who will emerge as a result of this. Education for children that is compelling may come out of this quarantine. Education that is available to the child when the child’s interest is piqued may also be a positive outcome. We need educational options that inspire the student to keep coming back for more. An education system that has kids seeing themselves as inventors, as individuals with valuable ideas. A system that encourages learning by doing rather than by merely listening. All of this is productive.

We could come out of these next few months with parents who have a profound new appreciation for good teachers. We hope to come out of this experience with an entire society that has a new appreciation for the profession of teaching. Online curriculum with digital, in-person, or at least one-on-one meetings with an educational mentor/teacher/parent who can help the child meet the deliverables and work with the student to make and exceed their goals would offer a positive outcome for distance learning and students. 

McGraw-Hill Makes Digital Test Prep Resources Available For Free In Response To COVID-19 Crisis

McGraw-Hill, a leading learning science company, today announced free digital access to its 5 Steps to a 5 Advanced Placement test preparation guides for educators, students and parents navigating the challenge of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The online Cross-Platform Prep Courses will be available for 90 days for students who log in to get access prior to June 30, 2020.

“During this unprecedented time of disruption, we want to do everything we can to support educators, students and parents during the shift to online learning,” said Scott Grillo, President of McGraw-Hill Professional. “By offering free access to our innovative 5 Steps to a 5 Cross-Platform Prep Course across multiple AP subjects, we hope it will be a valuable resource to supplement virtual classroom instruction for AP courses.”

For more information, including access codes and instructions on redeeming the codes, please visit: https://learn.mheducation.com/ap-teacher-resources.html.

The Cross-Platform Prep Course provides students with study and practice content that is fully customizable. Students can create a personalized study plan based on their test dates and set daily goals to stay on track, while integrated lessons, practice questions, exams, flashcards and games provide important review of key topics and practice to build test-taking confidence. Since the 2020 AP exams are being shortened and focus is shifting toward free-response and document-based questions, students and teachers can navigate the content to find resources that are most relevant to this year’s exams.

The prep resources are available across 14 AP subjects: Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, English Language, English Literature, Human Geography, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Physics 1, Psychology, Statistics, U.S. Government & Politics, U.S. History, and World History: Modern.

Providing free digital access to 5 Steps to a 5 resources is one of a number of ways McGraw-Hill has responded to help educators, students and parents with online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on getting support from McGraw-Hill, visit: https://www.mheducation.com/ideas/announcements/mcgraw-hill-supporting-schools-and-learners-covid19.html

Long-Term Effects of Education and Technology Because of COVID-19

Responses from Adam Garry, senior director of education strategy, Dell Technologies.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

A: A likely outcome is that schools will realize that virtual learning should be a component of every student’s learning journey, but fully online will not work for most.  In the rush to move online, many educators are learning that what they had to do in 14 days should really take months. The K–12 school systems that already solved for access and moved toward blended learning had a much easier time shifting. As a result, we will likely see a strong push for access and blended learning going into next school year. School systems and higher education institutions will build for the future with blended environments as a core component of design and this will allow for the educator and student to have a smooth transition into fully online learning whenever they may choose.

Also, moving forward the technology leader will be seen as an essential part of the leadership team, if they haven’t been already.  Administrators are realizing that learning simply can’t happen without the support of IT and, therefore, we should anticipate technology leaders in education will have a voice to support all decisions that impact the vision and the day-to-day work.  These leaders will need to look beyond just the devices and think about the infrastructure needed to support learning anytime, anywhere.

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?

This is a question that came up on one of our recent CIO chats that we host and the answer is maybe.  I don’t think that it will be embraced as it is being designed right now because most school systems and institutions are rushing to get something created to support their learners and likely would do things differently with more time.

But I think we will see collaborative work happen across the education spectrum to create courses and curriculum that can be implemented in ways that take advantage of face-to-face and online learning. This will allow schools and universities to redefine how they use physical space and tailor more toward the actual learning.

For example, students working in a collaborative group on a project might need a smaller space in the library with a white board, laptops, internet connection, and a screen to share. While other students are in a lecture hall getting new information via a Socratic seminar. Also, we might rethink how we use projects and playlists to support personalized learning that defines mastery with application of learning, so all learners have an opportunity to show learning in unique ways.

There will likely always be an element of classroom learning at a physical school, however, that will likely look very different in coming years as pedagogy and technology continue to evolve in new ways to empower learners.

In-classroom learning remains essential until we can solve the issue of equity. We still have students and teachers that do not have the correct devices or broadband access for virtual learning. We’re seeing schools grappling with how to conduct special education or help ESL students with a balance of synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

Additionally, in-classroom learning provides additional social and societal benefits including school lunches, after school programs and a safe space for children in less ideal home situations.

It also remains essential because learners are social, and the physical building creates opportunities for collaboration and learning that wouldn’t be possible if we were all working in remote locations.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

I am not sure that the vision for the future has changed; I just think we have a new sense of urgency.  School systems and institutions are still moving toward a definition of personalized learning that gives students some voice and choice in the learning process.  This requires access to technology and the internet at home. If we can solve the inequities that exist today for our learners, then we will be able to shift to environments that provide true blended learning and remove time and space as the barriers.  Learners will be involved in competency-based models that allow them to learn at their own pace. The university will become a hub for life-long learning and students will move in and out based on short and long term goals that they set with an advisor. In the end, we will utilize technology as the platform to enable great innovation and shift the model of learning to meet the needs of all learners.

COVID-19 and Education: Long-Term Effects

Responses from Brian Galvin, chief academic officer, Varsity Tutors.

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?

While we in ed tech have been thrilled to see students engaging with interactive, personalized content, the other side of the story – and likely the bigger story – is that everyone is realizing just how integral physical schools and teachers are to daily life. We’ve seen the importance of the meals they provide to at-risk students, the way that kids crave the socialization and recreation aspects of the school day, the sheer awe that parents have for teachers having had to walk a few miles in their shoes each day. I don’t think we’ll get to the end of this and be ready to replace physical schools anytime soon; if anything it seems like we’ll have a newfound appreciation for schools and teachers.

What I think will change are a few things: For one, distance learning for supplemental education will boom. Parents are seeing even the youngest kids fully engage in online reading and math programs, fully comfortable with the technology and as a Virtual School Day kindergarten reading teacher put it ‘when they get to talk in front of classmates on a webcam they feel like little celebrities on TV.’ We’ll see online summer and after school programs surge for educational enrichment, not just for remediation. A full day of summer school, for example, is a drag; an hour of reading a few mornings per week, however – with parents not having to drive across town to make it happen – is a recipe for turning summer slide into a summer acceleration.

We’ll also see more and more assignments move online to become personalized and adaptive. When kids receive assignments that adapt to their ability level to keep them challenged but not bored or overwhelmed, homework is more efficient and much less tedious.  When programs can remember which skills a student should see again in certain increments — and serve those skills up in small but significant doses – short-term memory becomes long-term mastery. Every ed tech company that has its act together is investing in personalized learning, in creating more content to allow for more adaptivity — when we get through this period we’ll find that much like World War II left us with a surplus of manufacturing capacity, COVID-19 will have left us with lots of personalized learning capacity for schools to tap into.

And we’ll see affordable, small-group personalized learning boom, too. At Varsity Tutors we’re watching classroom teachers flock to online teaching to fill their days and bolster their bank accounts — and they love it. And we’re seeing parents grateful for free online classes and adaptive lesson plans, but craving some personalized attention on particular learning objectives.

One response we’ve had to that is to create a small-group tutoring program, where parents can split the cost of one-on-one tutoring with other families to create really affordable small group sessions. And we’re working to help parents identify other families with learners looking for the same instruction at the same level so that we can not only pass along the savings, but organize meaningful, personalized instruction. That’s tough to do without a large pool of families each seeking out particular assistance so that there are matches — and great instructors — for each. But COVID-19 has created that critical mass, and what we’re seeing is that as people see the benefit, they’re eager to continue it through summer vacation, into the next school year, and beyond.

Schools — not to mention teachers — has so many benefits to our way of life that they’re not in danger of being wholesale replaced anytime soon. This era will certainly steer schools toward more and better technology usage in classrooms and for assignments, but when that first bell rings after quarantines are lifted, most students and parents will be thrilled to get back to normalcy.

What we’ll likely see, however, is a lot of schools develop distance learning plans for things like snow days or elective classes — if a school can’t afford to offer as many Advanced Placement classes as students might like, for example, distance learning has proven to be a viable way of aggregating a handful of students from each of a dozen or more schools and offering that class where it might not have been a possibility before.  Summer school might become more of an option that way, too — much like a college student might knock out a class like organic chemistry at a local community college over the summer to avoid a stressful semester, high schoolers may add to their transcript with one class each summer. We’ll see online education supplement the classic school routine, and add a lot of benefits to students who can take advantage of more options and modalities. But that bell is going to ring to start the 2020-21 school year and people are going to rejoice.

In essence, what is the future of classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

There’s no doubt that 1) the world is having educational technology forced on it right now and 2) the vast majority of people are going to really like it, or at least really like certain portions of it. So this era will leave a legacy, to be sure. But while we’ve been talking about the flipped classroom and the completely online high school for years now, the research shows that the standard school experience is still more effective in most cases and we’re also seeing the societal benefits of in-person schools, too. So for the near and medium term, we’ll see technology enhance and supplement the traditional school experience – but not replace it.  Technology offers immense opportunities for personalization – whether adaptive assignments, small groups focused on similar ability bands, or diverse offerings to fit interests and abilities – and we’ll see school districts avail some of that potential and lots of parents tap into the supplemental education aspect of it, as well.

Virtual Learning Environments In Response To COVID-19

Vikram Savkar

Responses from Vikram Savkar,  vice president and general manager, medical segment, Wolters Kluwer’s Health Learning, Research, and Practice business.

Because most schools have moved to virtual learning environments in response to COVID-19, what are the likely long-term outcomes of this?

Time in the classroom, small group interactions, labs, and so on will always remain an important part of the medical school experience. But medical school faculty have long employed an online component to their classes by capturing their lectures and posting them online and recording narrated PowerPoints for students to consult. And the current crisis is significantly expanding the demand for digital tools.  Many students left campus in such a hurry that they did not take textbooks home with them. As a result, we have had many schools that had not already subscribed to our digital learning tools inquire about how they can quickly get access. Wolters Kluwer responded by offering 90-day free access to these collections to help medical schools and students navigate through unprecedented and painful disruptions.

What faculty and students alike are discovering during this disruption, out of necessity, is that online medical education can be surprisingly effective. They are realizing that illustrated textbooks, quizzes and exams, medical board preparation, case studies and so on are all available through online tools, and in many cases these tools can open up new educational benefits.

Some products, for instance, allow instructors to assess how students are performing, and to zero in on students who may be struggling to grasp a subject, so that quick remediation can be employed. Even anatomy classes – which one might suppose could not possibly be virtualized – are being transitioned rapidly during the disruption to powerful visualization digital tools, and the instructors we are speaking to are surprised and delighted by how effective they can be.

When this disruption is past, and med students return to their classrooms in the fall, I doubt classrooms will fully return to “the way things were.”  My assumption is that, in the wake of COVID-19, medical schools will have begun a path of willing transition toward robust integration of digital learning tools into the curriculum, a path that will play out over several years but constantly accelerate.

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?

The medical school curriculum has already undergone significant changes in recent years, incorporating team-based activities, problem-based learning and a flipped classroom approach. And as mentioned above, I do envision that uptake of online tools will now advance gradually beyond online lecture and narrated PowerPoint to encompass digital textbooks, assessment solutions, test prep tools, visualization platforms and so on, all of which will push some of the basal learning elements of medical school out of the classrooms and into the students’ private study time.

This transition will enable time in the classroom to be used even more than today as a forum for discussion and assessment, and a place to learn by doing in order facilitate mastery of advanced content. It may even free up more time for early-stage students to get practical, hands-on experience with patients, which is an increasing area of focus across the medical school community.  But all of this simply represents an evolution toward balancing the timeless strengths of classroom education (direct contact with expert instructors, peer learning and so on) with the benefits of digital tools (personalization, self-paced learning, immersive study).

As for pure distance learning, that is a more complicated question. I do think most medical schools will set up digital webcasting capabilities moving forward, so that if there are further disruptions and periods of social distancing, they will be able to rapidly and effectively transition classes to a distance mode. But I don’t envision many medical schools making a significant move toward pure distance education in the near future except during periods of massive disruption like the one we are experiencing now.  As I’ll cover in more detail below, the classroom and campus aspect of the medical school experience is core to what medical students learn and how they learn.

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Long-Term Effects of Education Because of Coronavirus

Jon Roepke - Director of Product Management - Belkin International ...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.

Virtual Learning Environments During COVID-19

Anant Agarwal
Anant Agarwal

Responses from Anant Agarwal, CEO and founder of edX.

Following the shift to virtual learning environments during COVID-19, what does the future hold for classroom-based learning and the technology that plays a role in providing instruction?

During this pandemic, much of the world has transitioned to remote learning, demonstrating the rapid evolution of the education landscape. While a new concept to some, here at edX, a nonprofit online learning platform, we’ve seen a shift towards education technology platforms even before the pandemic started, and we predict virtual learning will continue to gain momentum, as learners and educators everywhere realize its wide array of benefits, whether in unusual circumstances like these, or in normal times.

With the aid of technology and the creation of these learning platforms, we aim to shift the mindset to a lifelong, modular approach rather than the typical, stove piped two- six-year trajectory for a degree. When we founded edX, we did so with the mission to make high-quality education more accessible to more people by eliminating barriers like cost, location, and time.

An invaluable benefit of this platform has been to facilitate engagement with our learners on their own time – providing real-time interactions, lessons, and collaboration between these students and their instructors and peers.

Online learning platforms like edX enable quality learning through video distribution, assessments with instant feedback, and social networks that promote stimulating discussions – all occurring at scale and easily accessible by the masses who choose to use them. If there’s one major benefit, simply put, it’s the efficiency that virtual learning platforms have created.

Will more schools embrace distance learning once we’re beyond the pandemic, and if so, what will that look like? 

We think that the adoption of distance or online learning will happen faster as a result of the pandemic, as both learners and educators begin to see the many benefits associated with this method. While a few universities will still go back to purely traditional approaches, we predict many will start to adopt and deploy the use of omnichannel learning or blended learning, where campus students will routinely use both online and in-person learning.

Universities will also begin to adopt stackable, modular credentials as building blocks to a full degree. These credentials will allow learners to quickly build transferrable, in-demand skills needed to keep up with the digital transformation that has caused a major skills gap in today’s workforce.

Universities will also begin to leverage one of the most important contributions of technology for education – the network effect. Universities will begin to share modular content with each other and build upon each other’s work. edX’s recently launched, edX Online Campus, which will help universities in this endeavor.

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