The role education technology has played during COVID-19 lockdown

The global spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns have resulted in schools being shut all around the world. It is estimated that 1.2 billion students have been impacted due to the measures taken by affected countries to stem the outbreak.

From reception years to doctoral candidates, learners are now forced to stay at home amid the pandemic; consequently, changing education in dramatic fashion. Amongst the chaos, the education technology and online learning sector are presented with the biggest opportunity with the rise of e-learning; whereby classes are conducted remotely and online. Some schools and educational institutes have managed to adapt, some have not. Notwithstanding the social, political and economic factors that influence the use of ‘EdTech’, some technologies have played a crucial role in ensuring that learning providers (schools, colleges, and universities) deliver learning through means that resonate across generations.

Research indicates that, on average, students can retain about 25 to 60% of information with online learning compared to 8 to 10% in the traditional classroom. Much of this comes from the fact that students are able to learn ‘faster’ as they require 40-60% less time to learn online than in a classroom. Online learning also allows students to learn at their own pace, re-read certain materials, and skip topics as and when they can during these difficult times.

The pandemic has brought online learning to the forefront of conversations in education and the commercial world. 

Forbes reported that in its latest response to the coronavirus pandemic, Coursera will give college students around the world free access to its entire catalogue of courses. The company, a leading online learning platform and one of the pioneers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS), made the announcement today, opening up enrollment in any of its thousands of courses to millions of students. Interactions on Coursera are primarily through videos and discussion forums, but these additions to virtual learning environment have proved quite successful. 

After the school closures due to the pandemic, educational institutes were finding the stop-gap solutions to continue teaching. The University of Cambridge announced that their students  would be attending virtual lectures with only face-to-face teaching in small groups remaining until 2021. This is due to the “obvious dangers of having 200 or more students in a lecture room all together”. Implementing remote strategies are easier for some universities than others, and this is largely because of their ‘already in-place’ solutions for their large international student base. 

Microsoft have assisted schools in the U.K. in getting set up for remote learning to help the students continue to learn while at home. In the U.K., around 27,000 schools are using Office 365, Skype in the Classroom, Minecraft: Education Edition and Microsoft Teams. Teams enable lessons to be run remotely by connecting students and teachers over video-enabled remote classrooms. They also provide a host of collaborative and interactive tools which help digitally proficient students experience and modify the curriculum accordingly.

Social media continues to play a vital role in people’s lives during the confinement period as communication increases between people using social media portals. On social media portals, there have been many online courses launched, and most of them help continuing in education activities, strong social networks, and healthy lifestyles. Social media abuse appears to be falling in the lockdown, which has always been a concern for 21st century learning sceptics. 

If we say education technology has been a silver lining for educational institutes during the coronavirus lockdown, it won’t be wrong. With the help of education technology, teachers’ and educators’ fear of online teaching and hesitation to use online portals is now changing. Notwithstanding, ever more important issue of integrating EdTech in pedagogical processes, online and remote learning has been evidenced to facilitate the team learning environment in the days of collaborative learning.