Coronavirus will forever change the global education system and make online learning more accessible

The coronavirus pandemic that gripped humanity in early 2020 has led to the widespread adoption of unprecedented education measures.

Educational institutions, from schools to universities, in more than 180 countries around the world have been partially or completely closed. In most states, all educational institutions went into full quarantine, while some of them were closed in the USA, Canada, Russia, Vietnam and Australia. According to UNESCO, these measures had an impact on 91% of the world’s students.

Since at the moment no one can say with certainty how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, and what its consequences will be, most closed educational institutions in the world have introduced distance learning for their students. This became the only opportunity to continue training in the extreme conditions created.

Despite the fact that the forced introduction of online education has already revealed not only the advantages, but also the disadvantages of the modern academic system, experts and teachers themselves are increasingly saying that the future of global education lies precisely with online learning.

A new milestone in the history of education

It is already becoming clear that the international education industry is the industry that will emerge the most from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact is that the industry not only did not stop its work, but also completely rebuilt in accordance with the current situation in the world. And this happened in a uniquely short time, in a little more than a month. Governments of countries, educational institutions of different levels and their teachers were forced to urgently organize distance work, transfer manuals and materials to digital format, reorganize curricula and switch to a new form of teaching.

We can safely say that the coronavirus gave a sudden, but so long-awaited, impetus to the development of innovations in the field of education. Despite modern technologies, the world academic industry as a whole has been in a state of stagnation for many years. Moreover, the introduction of educational innovations took place only in the most advanced schools and universities and only in the most developed countries. This has steadily widened the gap in the quality and accessibility of education for representatives of different nationalities and social strata.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the rapid adoption of new technologies in institutions in developed countries that have not used them before, and more importantly, in less developed countries for which this was a real breakthrough. Already, more than 120 million students in China have access to full-fledged online education, distance classes are held in Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East.

Another important trend that emerged during the pandemic is the increasing collaboration between the public and private sectors in education. Tech companies, independent education specialists, and telecommunications network operators were needed to create digital learning platforms and find the right solutions in a crisis situation. For example, China, Hong Kong and Japan have already formed public-private groups working to provide online education for schoolchildren and students. According to the latest data, their activities will not stop after the end of the pandemic.

In recent decades, we have already seen much greater interest and investment from the private sector in educational solutions and innovation, as well as the positive momentum generated by this investment. Corporations such as Microsoft and Google in the US, Samsung in Korea, Tencent, Ping An, and Alibaba in China are focusing on developing global education.

Understanding the challenges faced by society due to the COVID-19 pandemic will obviously lead to the fact that private companies will play an increasing role in the education industry in the future. At the same time, most of their efforts will be aimed at developing online education and making knowledge, in general, more accessible to all people in all countries of the world. This will make humanity more prepared in case the crisis situation recurs in the future.

Online education issues

Speaking about the fact that the future lies with online education, one should not forget about a number of problems associated with this approach. Now that millions of students around the world are isolated in their homes, these problems are more evident than ever.

The experience of transferring schools and universities around the world to distance learning made it clear that the quality and feasibility of such education largely depends on the level and quality of digital access.

If it seems to you that there is nothing unusual in a smartphone, computer and Internet access, and therefore online education is available to everyone, we suggest that you familiarize yourself with the statistics. Today, only about 60% of the world’s inhabitants have access to the Internet. It’s hard for you to believe it too, isn’t it? Nevertheless, out of 7.75 billion people on the planet, only 5.19 billion have mobile phones (not necessarily smartphones), only 4.54 billion have access to the Internet, and only 3.80 billion use at least one social network or application.

As we can see, the statistics are disappointing. And it made a renewed focus on itself when students in different countries were forced to switch to distance learning. While students in Hong Kong, for example, can take full-fledged virtual classes on a computer, tablet or smartphone, the only way to receive educational materials and assignments for students in many countries has become primitive instant messengers such as WhatsApp and e-mail. And this is at least something, because many students in Africa and the Middle East, in principle, do not have access to normal textbooks, but now they are completely deprived of the opportunity to study.

The introduction of ubiquitous distance learning has literally left a huge number of children and adult students out of the educational board just because they cannot buy the necessary gadgets or pay for access to the Internet. In many countries, forced online education has only exacerbated socioeconomic inequalities. In addition, teachers from developing countries, who, for their part, are doing everything to keep their classes, complain that many of their students live in disadvantaged and digitally unsophisticated families who, even if they want to, cannot contribute to the further education of their children.

It should be noted that the new format of education has become fatal not only for many students, but also for a number of teachers. And even in the developed countries of the world. On the one hand, many educators readily began experimenting with different applications and formats, delivering educational streams and recording video lectures. On the other hand, some school teachers and even university professors, who adhere to classical teaching methods and have never done anything like this, were completely unprepared for the new realities of their profession. It is not surprising that this influenced the quality of their work, psychological state, readiness to conduct classes in new conditions and, as a result, their students.

How will we learn in the future?

The coronavirus pandemic will inevitably lead to changes in the global education industry. However, the nature of these changes and their scope will vary greatly from country to country.

In developed countries, where people have already studied remotely, online education will take root even more, become more developed and popular. An important factor will obviously become the fact that for many schoolchildren and adult students, the online education format will be much more convenient, and they simply will not want to abandon it after the end of quarantine. Many parents in the United States are already reporting that their children are more motivated by homeschooling and their academic performance has improved. Thus, in the future, the demand for online education of different levels may increase, which will definitely lead to the development of this industry.

Changes will also affect the less developed countries, where distance education has become a real novelty for the vast majority of students, albeit not always pleasant. Third world governments are expected to take steps to improve educational facilities and expand access to online education for students from different backgrounds. However, one should not think that progress will be fast and truly effective, because these countries have a long way to go to the level of education development that is observed in other regions of the world.

Also, one should not be guided by the fact that in the near future all or almost all education in the world will move to the virtual plane. First, it would require colossal investment and technical development. Secondly, not all students will want to study in this format, even if the necessary conditions exist. It is rather about the fact that each person will make a choice between classical and distance education, starting from school. Those who choose the second option will find it easier to meet their needs through the rapidly developing online education.

Many scientists today say that epidemics and viral infections of various kinds can become one of the main features of the century in which we live. Undoubtedly, in this scenario, the importance of distance education will increase, but even then, educational institutions are unlikely to become fully digital and move to a new learning format. Instead, online classes will become, albeit a familiar, but temporary and necessary measure, which they will resort to in times of crisis.

In the end, it is important to say that the most significant thing in the current situation is the desire of governments, educational institutions, teachers and students themselves to continue classes no matter what. This community of interest not only motivates, but also gives us all to understand one important truth. Despite the fact that the doors of educational institutions can be closed, nothing can close the door to knowledge in front of a person who is eager to acquire this knowledge.

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