It has been nearly 7 months of the world’s fight for surviving the Wuhan virus pandemic. Schools and colleges were shut down during the lockdown Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and subsequently during the unlocking phases of 1, 2, and 3. Even though the nCOVID19 virus continues to rampage the world, we still don’t have a vaccine for it.
As education cannot be ‘paused’, the world had to, and still is, finding out new technologies, content, assessment methodologies and pedagogies to keep it going.
We entered the COVID pandemic era suddenly; it was a flashpoint of sorts, with the WHO, possibly sponsored or ‘educated’ by China, was telling the world a pack of lies.
When a pandemic happened, many countries like India, and the countries of Europe and the Americas, had to make technology an imperative part of delivering the complete teaching-education system — keeping the kids engaged with hands-on learning experience and interacting with teachers online —, which, for a couple of decades, was considered a ‘nice to have’, but not a ‘must-have’.
The reality that we were selling them was about the use of technology for all facets of education — empowering the teaching-learning processes, peer group learning, and collaborative online projects — which provides opportunities to offer multidisciplinary learning.
Using Zoom was the easiest way to move all the lectures online. They were simply teaching, and the students (hopefully) listening-in carefully. However, over the last 6 months, edtech Industries have evolved in two ways:
1. The pedagogical approaches have changed, needing precise and well-designed content and technology amended to.
2. For the COVID era, we have seen paradigm shifts in following areas:
- The teachers and students are not present in the same physical confines of a classroom.
- Learning material and the pedagogical approaches to deliver them online has been different and is still evolving.
- Assessments /tests/exams have been through high-stake proctoring and even auto-proctoring.
- We have delivered a number of projects online, where students from different parts of the world participate. They are free to pick the team members, but diversity is given importance: the diversity in setting up the projects, and the diversity in each of the teams. It could even be challenges or competitions which push the children to think creatively and sharpen their problem-solving skills. A reward for the winners should be interesting and creative.
- There are many more engaging models to nearly accomplish the learning outcomes that were set during the pre-COVID Times.
- With about 6 months of using education technology as the main educational strategy, we have tried different pedagogies, different approaches to instructional design of the content, and different assessment paradigms.
- All the above involve dealing with some local challenges and cultural differences. Some of the changes can be accommodated, but some, particularly history and social sciences, will see contradictions.
It is all evolving for the better. By the next calendar year, it will be a great blend of face-to-face teaching-learning processes, but which is blended with a sense of freedom for the students to pick the subjects of their choice, and hence the freedom to pursue academic programs they will enjoy; most definitely, the ones that have immense career opportunities.
We may be half-way into the pandemic, and I think this is the right time to do surveys of each education group, and learn the advantages and disadvantages that each of the key stakeholders sees. That will help make minor adjustments in the new education era that could deliver an effective blended model of education.
If we are mid-way through the Wuhan pandemic, this may be the right time to do a reality check on the direction we are taking; the long-term investments we are making in each education segment have to be validated now.
While we should design content and delivery, we should also obtain metrics from across the world. We must understand the feedback on how we could improve pedagogies, content, and the technology itself. It is up to the key stakeholders in education — particularly, education technology — to ensure that the feedback maximizes the effectiveness of education in the post-COVID Era, and the optimal usage of technology in education to make it more effective.