The future of education: moving to virtual classrooms

The future of education: moving to virtual classrooms
IDC Europe’s Jan Alexa explains the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education

Rebecca Gibson |

What are the top challenges facing the education sector during the Covid-19 crisis?
The biggest challenge reported by educators across Europe is that students and teachers do not have equal access to the internet, devices and collaboration apps or platforms. Hence, they need to find a way to digitise learning without widening the existing inequalities in the education sector. Another challenge is that almost overnight, primary and secondary school teachers were forced to switch to digital lessons, but many have never been taught the skills to do so. Similarly, teachers don’t have existing online learning resources, so they’ve had to create new content for lessons. However, they have no real way of measuring how well pupils are engaging with the work.

Which technologies are empowering teachers to continue providing regular education? 
Most educators are now using collaborative applications and online content tools to teach and communicate with their students. 

What steps can educational institutions take to create the right remote learning culture?  
Teaching and learning in a virtual environment is very different to what both teachers and students are used to, especially in primary and secondary education. Headteachers need to set out what teachers, students and parents are expected to do each day and achieve by the time they return to the physical classroom. In addition, schools must evaluate their resources to identify areas for immediate improvement – whether that be in terms of connectivity, learning resources or teaching skills. 

How well have educational institutions been doing so far?
I’ve spoken with educational professionals across Europe and some schools are now providing a full-time digital curriculum every day, while others are doing almost nothing due to a lack of resources. Primary and secondary schools are struggling more than tertiary institutions because they previously didn’t have many (or any) virtual teaching capabilities and it’s very difficult to engage young children in a virtual environment. 

What impact do you think the pandemic will have on how students are taught in the long-term? 
The pandemic has highlighted both the possibilities and limitations of online learning. Ultimately, I predict that primary and secondary schools will return to teaching in traditional classrooms, but they’ll likely retain some virtual teaching capabilities for certain circumstances. For example, if a child has a sore throat but is well enough to work, they may be able to join the lesson virtually so they can keep up with learning but not infect classmates. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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