E-learning in a post-pandemic world — Embracing the Hybrid Model

Do you work remotely now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or do you have some form of a hybrid work arrangement? Did you begin to exercise and become mindful of your diet over the last year? Is there a new hobby you casually picked up during isolation? These are all positive examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic transformed our lives and changed the world as we know it. It is evident even in the professional industry, how we work and learn has changed. Within this article, we focus our lens on the pandemic’s effects on education and education technology.

COVID-19 forced many schools to close down to contain the spread of the virus. Although closed physically, many schools migrated their learning and teaching materials to online platforms such as Canvas and Google Classroom within a few weeks. Lessons were also held virtually through tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.

Almost a year and a half onwards, as we gradually return to some form of “normalcy,” some schools have reopened, and students have returned to class. This brings about the question — What will E-learning look like now that physical gatherings are slowly picking up pace? What will E-learning look like in a post-pandemic world?

Virtual learning has generally been viewed as a new frontier for mainstream education and schools have either avoided it or only featured it as a bit-part role in the school curriculum. According to Skill Scouter, in 2020 over 50% of students took part in E-learning. With over a year’s experience of learning virtually, institutions are now optimistic about the prospects of Edtech.

You know how you may not know you like something till you first try it? And then when you do, you can’t seem to get enough? That will be the case with remote learning long after we have successfully moved past the COVID-19 pandemic. Why? With remote learning, students have autonomy over their learning. With recorded classes, they can watch lessons as many times as they want, replay, and even slow down or speed up the video to ensure they thoroughly grasp class concepts. The mobility of online learning is also an endearing factor — many students can be in transit and still be present in class.

Moreover, the time spent at home brought awareness to the various online tools that can aid teaching and learning, including online educational tools, 24/7 virtual tutors, and virtual tours. Also, many of these tools became more affordable as Edtech companies created payment plans and subscriptions tailored to various needs to accommodate and attract the high number of persons turning to online learning due to the pandemic.

As a result of both the advantages and limitations of virtual learning, we predict a post-pandemic world will likely follow a hybrid format.

It’s important to note that E-learning does have some shortcomings. Students with learning disabilities, unconducive home environments, and economic difficulties struggled the most with remote learning. They struggled with minimal hands-on guidance and access to technology and support. Also, the lack of face-to-face interactions and physical communities affected the social well-being of students. Moreover, since online learning places a lot of the responsibility to learn on students, younger children can struggle with this method as they tend to be easily distracted without a structured learning environment.

As a result of both the advantages and limitations of virtual learning, we predict a post-pandemic world will likely follow a hybrid format. Many classes will be held in person, whereas students complete assessments and other supplementary learning digitally. Going hybrid will mean lectures can either be synchronous or asynchronous. Additionally, classes could be bi-directional or multi-directional.

Synchronous classes mean that although lessons are remote, students will have them in real-time with the teacher. In contrast, asynchronous lectures occur through prepared(recorded or documented) resources and not real-time interaction with the instructor.

Bi-directional classes have information flowing in a two-way system, usually between teachers and students, as seen in lectures or lessons. Multi-directional lessons focus on the different interactions a student is likely to have within the classroom: student-to-student, teacher-to-student, and student-teacher interaction.

To navigate how to transition to hybrid learning, we propose utilizing a model proposed by Arthur D. Little, a management consulting firm. The framework is designed to create an impact on these three levels: Pedagogy, Infrastructure, & Governance.

Pedagogy deals with the method of teaching. Adapting a hybrid system means students and teachers will need guidance on properly using these online tools to promote effective learning. Instructors will need to be educated on best practices to maximize the hybrid model and achieve learning objectives.

Infrastructure focuses on the resources students need. Particular focus must be placed on economically disadvantaged and students with disabilities, who need to be provided with the required digital tools both in the home and at school. Students will require physical devices as well as software to execute hybrid learning successfully. The goal is to create equal learning opportunities for all students and allow digital learning to enhance the learning experience.

Governance focuses on the leadership hierarchy from the school, national and city-level, where investment creates hybrid structures. New curriculums may need to be designed to accommodate the hybrid model. The introduction of laws that govern aspects of learning, such as the use and storage of data should also be prioritized.

Culture, another factor not within the model but is crucial to making all these discussed above work. All stakeholders will need to accept the adopted digital tools and use them. Considering there is a transition from solely in-person education to hybrid learning, the appreciation for this new type of learning needs to be developed to yield results.

These four strategies ensure that impact is created on an individual, school, and national level. Moreover, these strategies also assure that they impact two areas:

  1. Behavioral and structural changes: We need to create a positive outlook on digital learning. Schools should intentionally discuss the learning style and digital learning approaches to improve awareness and acceptance of it.
  2. Underlying enablers: For digital learning to occur effectively, supporting infrastructure and policies must be implemented to ensure this. This can be done by providing the software, internet connectivity, and equipment needed. Provision of these should be looked at from a governmental, institutional, and family/community standpoint — all the parties chip in to contribute to providing resources.

Till our next article, we hope you leave understanding the central theme of the discussion — “Hybrid Learning.
When schools shifted to online learning during COVID-19, it highlighted numerous benefits. These include students’ autonomous learning, reduced cost of travel, inclusivity, increased mobility, and expanded access to learning resources. However, it did have limitations, such as limited access for persons with learning disabilities, economic hardships, and unstable home environments. Considering both the pros and cons, a predictable path for future online learning is the hybrid one, which we hope will maximize the best of both worlds.

About Chalkboard Education

Chalkboard Education provides a mobile-based, offline-first Learning Management System tailored for underserved communities' training. Lightweight, inclusive, and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education helps you reach your beneficiaries everywhere in the World, seamlessly. Currently used in 12+ countries in Africa, South and North America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.

References

Jayakumar, N. (2021, January 30). Why Hybrid Learning is the Future of Education. Retrieved from Inc42: https://inc42.com/resources/why-hybrid-learning-is-the-future-of-education/

Lasku, A., Khoury, D., Gustavsson, O., & Widmann, K. (2021, April). An opportunity to establish a sustainable digital education system. Retrieved from Arthur D. Little Global: https://www.adlittle.com/en/insights/viewpoints/accelerating-post-pandemic-e-learning

Li, C., & Lalani, F. (2020, April 29). The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how. Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/

Research and Markets. (2019, December 17). Online Education Market Study 2019 | World Market Projected to Reach $350 Billion by 2025, Dominated by the United States and China. Retrieved from Global Newswire: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/12/17/1961785/0/en/Online-Education-Market-Study-2019-World-Market-Projected-to-Reach-350-Billion-by-2025-Dominated-by-the-United-States-and-China.html

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