Changing Educational System after COVID-19
The pandemic seemed to plunge the global educational system into utter chaos. Universities and schools all around the world faced multiple challenges in arranging their educational processes with social distancing in mind. They found themselves forced to solve a lot of pressing issues within a short time – from identifying forms and technical means for distance learning to organizing current knowledge assessment and holding final/admission exams.
Some educational institutions chose to give up on shifting to online operations. Universidad de Buenos Aires, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America, decided to postpone classes due to the inability to ensure quality teaching and training provided remotely. Vice versa, in some countries, students protested against the transition to the online format, claiming that distance learning could not substitute traditional forms of education.
Developing countries turned out to be more vulnerable to the crisis because of poor funding, non-availability of necessary equipment, and underdeveloped IT support across local educational institutions as well as the lack of Internet coverage and low living standards at a nationwide scale. However, we saw plenty of problems with switching to online education in the developed world too. Starting from Zoom-bombing, which made US schools stop using the platform for educational purposes, and up to the need of rethinking the traditional grading system, the lockdown has revealed multiple challenges today’s educational institutions have to tackle. And some of them are being addressed as online education is evolving.
Learning management systems serve to run training courses within distance education by providing front-end tools for students and parents while involving teachers and administrators in the back end. Even the least multifunctional systems allow faculty to post assignments and grades and give the corresponding possibility for students to submit their works and to track progress on them.
But more advanced LMSs give access to creating custom virtual classrooms connected with parents and students’ dashboards and enriched with various helpful tools. The latter ones may cover discussion boards, attendance tracking, assignment calendars, online quizzes, reminders, and so on. The systems are often easily integrated with third parties learning apps, and they can accommodate different types of content, from videos and presentations to links to other educational resources.
Adapting to the lockdown, Google Classroom got an additional video conferencing opportunity with free Google Hangouts Meet. Moodle joined The Global Education Coalition under UNESCO while boasting 50,000 new sites registered since March 2020. Getting prepared for the next academic year, educational institutions around the globe either scale and polish their own LMSs or tap into major platforms to become more resilient no matter what another wave of the pandemic may bring.
MOOCs’ Second Moment
Following the example of Google, Coursera granted free access to 3,800 courses for students of all educational institutions. UNESCO and WHO launched a coronavirus-themed MOOC for journalists in the spring, and Udacity, edX, and other major MOOC providers observed a significant increase in the enrollment during the lockdown.
Massive open online courses were believed to get their greatest spotlight in 2012, when top-tier colleges partnered with the dedicated platforms to deliver thousands of courses for free or at a low fee. Back at the time, it was seen as a next-generation alternative to the traditional HE format with a focus on those who cannot afford quality education or need a more flexible schedule. With over 900 universities involved and 50 MOOC-based degrees granted, this concept was expected to outshine traditional education, but somehow, it faded away until recently.
Nowadays, MOOCs are officially back, offering a way out for those who lost their jobs, fret over such a possibility, or feel anxious about their employment perspectives after a college. Moreover, thanks to their extensive libraries, MOOC platforms can offer plenty of inspiration and resources for teachers who need to switch to online classes and struggle to complement them with quality content.
Speaking of the problem of engaging students in the learning process, we cannot overlook the latest presentation systems, such as virtual and augmented reality technologies and holographic 3D interfaces. The Oculus Rift store numbered over 100 educational apps even before the headset went on sale. HoloLens also comes with an impressive range of ways to improve students’ engagement and progress.
Though quite novel and yet to be adopted, both AR and VR technologies have been already transforming passive learning into an active process of acquiring knowledge. They perfectly align with gamification and interactive learning to solve the problem of involving Generation Z who seems to be born with a tablet in their hands. Not only can educational games/apps give sugar-coated knowledge when it comes to explaining complicated notions and issues but also build complex systems of interaction between students by immersing them in the necessary historical, social, or political environment.
However, it is a challenging task to incorporate these technologies into education and make them accessible to teachers and students. To this end, Veative Labs, a start-up developing immersive technology solutions, launched a collaboration with Lenovo to provide access to over 500 STEM modules created by Veative through Lenovo’s distance learning toolkit or VR Classroom 2. In its response to COVID-19 challenges, Veative also offers free learning resources available via a web browser with no VR equipment required.
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