Education a fundamental human right. The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown have affected nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and across continents. Further, as per the August 2020 Report by United Nations (UN), closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, of which up to 99% are in the low and lower-middle income countries. This education disruption has in a way stimulated innovation within the education sector leading to an increase in online learning. To ensure learning continuity during the COVID-19 closure, online learning became a priority in the education systems world over. In fact, the online education industry is projected to reach USD 350 Billion by 2025. Even UNESCO has announced the Mobile Learning Week (MLW), its flagship event on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from 12 to 14, October, 2020.
Co-existing education methods
While classroom learning will never completely fade away, the pandemic has given rise to a sustained shift towards more online learning in the future. Estimates indicate variable coverage: distance learning in high income countries covers about 80–85%, while this drops to less than 50% in low income. The challenges are numerous especially with the lack of the widespread use of technology for the most marginalized. While students are learning to adapt so are teachers who had to immediately cope during the pandemic often without sufficient guidance, training, or resources.
Now several education companies are developing Mobile Learning, Cognitive Learning, AI Learning, Mixed Reality Learning (AR-based Learning and VR-based Learning), Game-based Learning, and even Chatbots in Education (both physical and virtual).
Advantages of online learning
1. Geographic Flexibility
No matter in which state or country an educational institute is located, with online access you can get a degree without attending a classroom. Many institutes are offering more and more distance learning courses – both short term and long term.
2. User Friendly learning
Machine learning algorithms use pattern recognition which can personalize the content to suit the student’s needs. Most online educational courses that are tailor-made can facilitate learning in your own way.
3. Less Intimidating
Online learning may be more suited for shy or slow learners. Since you are away from the competition in class it allows you to participate in class discussions more freely without being judged by face-to-face interactions.
4. Time management
Another big advantage is time flexibility. For those who have jobs and other commitments online learning gives you the flexibility to skip a college campus and lectures at the same time attending classes at your convenience. With a little planning you can create a perfect balance between coursework and other obligations to scale yourselves.
5. Lower Costs
The cost structure of online learning usually proves to be more affordable than traditional colleges. From saving on transport to textbooks, it can work out financially more viable than college tuition.
6. Pacing options
There are three types of courses that allow students pacing options.
– Asynchronous courses that allow students to complete work without attending scheduled online classes, only submissions before deadlines may be required.
– Synchronous courses where teachers teach/instruct learners over Zoom or other video conferencing apps and student attendance is compulsory.
– Accelerated courses that are less than 16 weeks for students who want to complete the course faster.
Online courses offer different options and you can choose one that is more suited to your needs.
6. Career Advancement
Courses for corporate executives or management-level are appropriate to learn new skills and upgrade knowledge relevant to the marketplace. Often working people opt for courses like an online MBA for future advancement.
7. Result oriented
Online education can monitor the progress of the student. Through mobile phone surveys, by tracking usage and performance statistics from the learning platforms and apps, and by implementing rapid learning assessments to identify learning gaps, the education institutes are modestly able to quantify learning. This helps the student also to quantify what he has gathered from the course.
Disadvantages in online learning
- Technology glitches and breakdowns
- Non-access to wi-fi, laptops, mobiles in remote areas
- Lack of motivation and competition
- Requires self-discipline
- Nil personal interactions with teachers and fellow students
- Difficulty in accessing and preparing for practical skills
- Can expose to inappropriate website content
Online learning has become a way to learn anything and everything with millions of knowledge modules available on the internet. Even with as many as 100 countries yet to announce a date for schools classrooms to reopen, many students are able to continue their education without wasting another term due to resumed online classes.
E-learning will be the future of learning when you define the course objective, teach what the student seeks, and be able to test the result of the learning. Today several courses are available from EdX, Coursera, Udemy, upGrad, Skillshare, Byju, Meritnation, Topperlearning, Unacademy, etc. it’s only about finding the right fit. It is difficult to tell, if online learning reached all 1.6 billion learners during COVID-19 but it has definitely reached millions starting a new wave in education.