COVID-19 has had a transformative impact on education. It revolutionized the way we think about learning. Public schools once filled with students became ghost towns and all extracurricular activities were suspended until further notice. Educational establishments needed to find a solution to pursue the school year so the education sector fully adopted remote learning.
Online education proved to be a contentious issue as some teachers and students rejected the medium altogether while others could only praise the concept of virtual schools. One thing is certain, though, digital learning will only grow in predominance in the curriculum of students.
How the pandemic is reshaping education
The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping education. It did more than shift classrooms to online education. It tested basic ideas about instruction, testing, attendance, funding, the role of technology, and the human connections that hold the education sector together.
The change ushered by the COVID-19 pandemic has left many education professionals thinking that there may be an opportunity to reimagine what schools can be. Online learning has proven extremely apt at distributing standardized testing, and it is favorable to competency-based learning.
By competency-based learning, we refer to educational systems of instruction, grading, assessment, and academic reporting based on students demonstrating that they have learned the skills and knowledge they are expected to learn as they progress through their education.
On the other hand, the pandemic has also exacerbated inequalities of socio-economic nature, such as race, disability, and income. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about mental health, and how even students in elementary schools can face psychological stress. Public schools with inadequate ventilation systems are currently putting pressure on the Minister of Education, while teachers who adopted virtual learning are finding a wealth of online resources to better their students' learning experience.
As illustrated above, it is a rather hectic moment for the education sector. However, the turbulences brought by the coronavirus pandemic have a formative potential. Keep reading to find different ways the pandemic has changed education.
More focus on student mental health
The most significant change we've seen is the increased focus on student mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic caused feelings of loneliness, alienation, and increased symptoms of depression in young children. The mental health struggles of schoolchildren will, unfortunately, outlast the pandemic, and so should the efforts of schools to meet this profound need.
Sharon Hoover, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health, expects schools to hire significantly more staff and forge partnerships with mental health providers. In some educational systems, therapists are even based at schools, working with students and families on campus. It is important to note that with the scarcity of mental health professionals, 75 % of students who get mental health services get them at school (source).
Emphasize on catching up
Digital learning demanded a lot of discipline on the part of students. Before contemplating the arrival of futuristic, high-tech education systems, millions of students have to be supported to catch up academically and process trauma. Many educators predict this process will take several years to take place. Although many students thrived in a remote learning setting, many students lost interest in school and must be enticed to come back.
Policymakers are predicted to commit to long-term change beyond the “band-aid'' approach applied over the years to a crumbling system. Even the most obvious gain of the coronavirus pandemic — increased access to technology for students — will be ineffective in the absence of structural and infrastructural improvements.
Teachers making better use of technology
Teachers have recognized the importance of using technology in the classroom to teach more effectively and engage with their students. They have made better use of online teaching resources such as videos, podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. This has helped them become more aware of new developments in their field.
Pre-recorded classes offer students the opportunity of learning at their own pace and make personalized learning possible. For instance, the grand majority of teenagers need more sleep due to the physiological changes that take place at that formative age. The flexibility to sleep in, and to start once the body is fully rested is more optimal than waking up at 6 AM to get ready for school.
Asynchronous digital learning implicitly teaches students how to better manage their time. Although waking up later is permissible for some virtual schools, it isn’t always the best option if we consider homework, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities. This explains the meteoric rise and adaptation of learning management systems (LMS) and digital planners.
Teachers can grade faster
With the rise of LMS, which are software applications for the administration, documentation tracking, reporting, automation, and delivery of educational courses, teachers can speed through their corrections and spend more time preparing their lessons. This doesn’t mean that teachers no longer provide personalized feedback, on the contrary. Teachers can automate responses when errors occur so that students can learn from their mistakes.
HIncreased teacher communication
A decade ago, communication between the classroom and the home would take place on little pieces of paper, having students act as the messenger. The COVID-19 pandemic has officially put an end to that practice. Educational platforms such as Google Classroom have drastically eased correspondence between teachers and parents/guardians.
The concept of hybrid education is quite revolutionary for the education sector. For years, public schools have been declaring that there are too many students in classrooms for them to adequately provide a personalized learning experience. Now that remote learning has proven to be suitable, the alternation between class time and online education is more possible than ever.
It is even possible to wonder if snowstorms will be synonymous with “no school today!” anymore, since it is quite easy for teachers to turn to their computers and reach out to their students digitally with a load of homework and lessons.
Greater recognition for the education sector
Society didn’t fully realize how important private and public schools were until they were shuttered in March 2020. In addition to the intellectual enrichment and stimulation they provide students, preschool and elementary schools demonstrated how vital they are in the child-care ecosystem. Parents, especially mothers, were quickly barred from participating in their professional occupations as schools and their various programs were put on pause.
Schools feed millions of students breakfast and lunch, and many schools also offer crucial mental health counseling, medical and dental care, and identify cases of child abuse. When schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, so did a vast system of support for children and their families.
Online courses have also helped reduce costs by eliminating the need for physical classrooms, teachers, textbooks, etc. Universities can save money on building maintenance, equipment repair, etc., and pass these savings onto students by offering more affordable tuition fees. This also increases accessibility for students who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford higher education due to financial constraints.
Educational technological resources
In a post-pandemic Canada, every student needs a reliable Internet connection. There is simply too much good happening today in the digital learning environment for students to miss out. Digital planners, for instance, optimize the time management and autonomy of students. Students succeed when they have a clear path and digital planners provide just that. With features like progress tracking, customizable layouts, and step-by-step task breakdowns, Studyo makes it easy to stay organized and plan out schoolwork.
Even when school will be back to fully in-person, digital learning will allow students to form study groups easily and do homework together, get involved in digital art projects or coding, or practice patient care in a simulated hospital while training for health care jobs.
The virtual school environment that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon the education sector can definitely be considered a paradigm shift. It is also important to note that most students learn best in-person when led by a teacher, surrounded by classmates and activities. It remains that there is a lot of positive that came out of the uncomfortable position the COVID-19 pandemic has forced upon the education sector.