How Has Education and Virtual Learning Changed Because of the Pandemic?

Responses from Nader Qaimari, chief learning officer, ISACA.

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

It’s important to distinguish between true distance or virtual learning and crisis virtual learning. Right now, yes, many organizations and schools have moved to doing everything virtually, yet we are not really where we need to be to say we’re truly virtual.

We are doing what we can, but not necessarily doing it correctly. I imagine that shortly after this crisis subsides, we will see a quick pendulum swing back to much more face-to-face interaction (as we all crave it) but then people will move to having serious discussions around what this means long-term. With my kids, for example, I am extremely interested in how we will measure the efficacy of distance learning. It’s not as easy to measure as parents who are working from home right now can’t monitor their children’s progress all day, like teachers can in a closed environment. More tools to facilitate that will be necessary, and more importantly, the adoption of those tools.

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?

At a minimum, virtual learning will no longer be viewed as some elusive, experimental aspiration, but a true possibility – with limits. We are now a few weeks into a stay-at-home order for 80% of the population and I am pretty confident that if you ask most parents, they want their kids to go back to a physical classroom setting. The physical social interaction is key and the appreciation for teachers is at an all-time high. When you move to other areas of learning, however, like corporate learning, it seems that distance learning is a true possibility. It’s more convenient, more cost-effective and more efficient. As the organizations that deliver that content improve, and the technology improves, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to say that more corporate learning will continue to move to an online-only format.

I really think that it will not happen in our lifetime. There will be options to do that as an alternative, but I don’t think that will be the norm in the next few decades. Education does not move that fast, even after a crisis.

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

The goal is to recognize each for the value it brings. The technology should facilitate instruction and make it more efficient. The teacher/instructor should personalize it and make it stick. I have never subscribed to the belief that teachers would get replaced with technology. That is thinking about it incorrectly. Technology can help teachers become better, though. By removing the manual work and freeing up time, teachers can do what they do best – connect with students, engage them, and make sure they understand. That is why the classroom will be around for a long time. We crave that social interaction.