By: Fatima Salahuddin
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced students, regardless of their educational level, to continue their studies at home.
What might have been an exhilarating new approach to improve learning and engagement in the classroom has, due to coronavirus crises, transformed and almost wholly replaced ‘face-to-face’ interaction. Traditional group work and discussions that students were used to were gone… Practically overnight, digital learning has become the new normal.
Technology has provided us with the opportunity to continue with education during the crisis. At the same time, it has enabled us to analyze the new learning landscape and identify its drawbacks and benefits so that we do our best to improve it.
How has technology changed the learning landscape?
Integrating technology into the learning process brings fundamental changes essential for achieving significant productivity improvements. Technology supports teaching and learning processes, introducing digital learning tools into the classrooms, such as computers and various handheld devices.
When applied in education, technology enables learning 24/7/365. It can be used to develop new course offerings, experiences, and learning materials.
Technology can transform the teaching process by introducing a new model of connected learning. This teaching model links teachers to their students and relevant resources, supporting them to personalize learning to match students’ interests and improve their instructions.
With a proper implementation in the educational process, technology builds 21st-century skills, increases student motivation and engagement, and accelerates learning.
More accessible education
Not so long ago, we couldn’t imagine education without teachers and students sharing the exact geographical location. Nowadays, we can get an online degree without meeting our teachers “live” or ever setting foot in the university. If we’re interested in a particular program available in another city or even another continent, we’re now more likely to complete it without seismic changes in our lives.
However, even though technology has shown that it can obviously bring down the geographical barriers, societies must do their best to reduce other barriers that still make education a privilege of certain groups, such as the socioeconomic gap.
In the future, we can anticipate that thanks to technological advancement, many students will have a chance to learn from the best lecturers. They will be able to do so at an affordable price and at their own pace, regardless of where they live, making the learning process and education less elitist.
Apart from making the entire process easier to access, integrating technology in the learning landscape has made it more flexible.
With all course materials already waiting for them online, students can now attend classes, study and complete their assignments whenever it matches their schedule, as long as they are within the limits of a specified deadline.
Students can now use technology to collaborate and exchange notes and resources in the most helpful ways. A great example is a database consisting of relevant Griffith notes and study guides created by students who previously took the same degrees, courses, assessments, and exams.
Such flexibility and ease of access open up a world of possibilities for those who otherwise wouldn’t attend traditional education. For example, full-time employees that don’t want to jeopardize their jobs or parents who need to take care of their young children.
While traditional education had many challenges to address the needs of individual students, technology gives rise to personalized learning strategies for every individual student.
Every student benefits from such an approach, but this is particularly important for students with special needs, whether they have sight, speaking, hearing impairments, developmental, intellectual, or social disabilities.
Technology gives a chance to create a stimulating learning environment that can fit specific students’ needs rather than a “one-size-fits-all” learning experience.
Adaptive learning ensures that students have equal opportunities to succeed despite differences in their learning style, pace, and preferences.
The quality of communication between teachers and students is also changing due to advancements in technology. Even though they may no longer benefit from face-to-face conversations, they can use different interaction tools like email or instant messengers.
The time of interaction is now not limited to the classes only – students can now ask for clarification or request information when they need help and expect the answer to come much quicker.
With all the technological advancements, the roles of students and teachers are developing too.
While teachers were the primary source of information in the traditional educational system, technology has enabled students to play a more active role. With all the information and resources, they now can find online, students can research new topics and learn about new concepts and ideas.
Time spent online with their teacher can now be more efficient, as they have more time to discuss ideas and their implications. The role of a teacher can now spread beyond lecturing, developing into a role of a mentor.
Technology has opened up a possibility for highly efficient online testing too. Since the tests can now be assessed and graded by a machine, the process can be unbiased and entirely fair.
In addition, this way of testing significantly lowers students’ anxiety. Instead of sitting in a room full of people, they can now take their exams in a familiar environment, using digital tools they are already accustomed to.
Not to mention that online tests reduce the wasting of resources – while friendly with the environment, online tests also save time and money!
Available learning content
Educational possibilities are endless, both in and out of the formal education borders. There are various tools and excellent learning content available online that everyone can use to advance the skills they need.
For example, with apps such as Bussou or Duolingo, learners need just a phone, some free time, and enough determination to learn the basics, or more, of the language of their choice.
Furthermore, there are many open educational resources in the public domain that are freely available to anyone over the Web. Such resources are an important part of the learning infrastructure and include various content, such as digital libraries, podcasts, textbooks or games.
With further improvements in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality, the benefits of educational technology will only grow. With a strategic approach, societies can use technology and leverage these benefits, reducing all the barriers that make education a privilege.