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Why schools must prepare for a shift to online learning in 2021 

EducationWorld April 2021 | Spotlight Feature

The Covid pandemic has impacted life in ways we could not imagine just a year ago. Education was severely disrupted due to the limitations imposed on movement, meetings and gathering. Divya Lal, Managing Director of Fliplearn Education Pvt. Ltd explains her views on why schools should prepare for a shift to Phygital learning in 2021.

School routines were suspended, teaching stalled, learning took a hit.  Children’s education, examinations,  assessments, admissions, placements, all took a beating. So, what  does the future hold for education? Will it be  business as usual, back to the classroom – or  will we see permanent shifts and changes in  the way we teach – and learn? 

The saving grace for education during this  stressful period of disruptions was online  education. While on the rise even before  Covid hit us, online education came as a  rescue act for students, teachers and all  stakeholders in keeping schedules going. Not  surprising then, the online learning industry  has witnessed significant growth due to the  limitations imposed by the Covid pandemic  across the world. The simple virtue of being  so much more convenient and cost effective  than conventional face-to-face courses has  made eLearning highly popular.What was  earlier mainly for working professionals and  distance learning students – who used it for the  convenience, flexibility, and affordability-has  today become a great asset to the education  system at large. 

All estimates suggest that going forward  online education will hold a major share of the  teaching-learning process. Partly due to the  impetus it has received, which has resulted in  online platforms upping their game, providing  better and more extensive content, enabling  sharing and improved App development digital  education has today become a practical tool  to transcend some of the typical limitations  imposed by in-person education for centuries.  Hence, flexibility of learning at one’s own pace  and time, instant access to resources on the net, transcending geographical limitations of  space or travel, economical and on-demand  learning have permanently altered the  education landscape. 

It is imperative that we prepare students –  and ourselves as educators – for the future.  While a pandemic that would transform the  face of education could not be anticipated, we  can confidently say that from here onwards  technology will seep into every student’s life  like never before – all the way until they join  the workforce. In other words, the age of  blended learning is upon us and everyone –  students, teachers, parents and institutions  – are better prepared rather than not at all, for  its advent.  

A blended learning mode has powerful  proven advantages in times of Covid  sensitivities. It allows teachers to maintain  the autonomy of their class while providing  a level of educational safety that means  students could continue learning regardless  of the world around them. But the advantages  run deeper. Digital and mixed learning can  offer an educational experience for students  that can be more impactful than traditional  classroom education. Students can learn  from home and freely control their learning.  This independence revolutionizes the set education pattern allowing students a break  from the demands of the classroom so they  can concentrate on their own needs and learn  at the right pace that suit them. This makes the  educational experience more personalized  and also enables teachers to concentrate on  their relationship with the student and facilitate  their individualized learning. When students  receive personalized support, they are more  likely to succeed. 

A blended approach to education accepts  the fact that education is no longer limited  to a classroom or school and that the age of  360-degree education is upon is. Education  is happening all the time around the student  as he or she accesses information, task  work, test papers, assessments at will round  the clock with no limitations to space, time  or location. The blended learning format  redefines the traditional education paradigm and positively impacts the 4 basic equations  in the process – teacher-student; student student; parent-student and parent-teacher.  All four equations are regenerated as a new collaborative model takes root.  

This democratization of education has  external benefits – a reduced cost of delivery  is bringing new students into the education  net, an ambition expressed by most countries,  schools and governments. In this new hybrid  avatar, blended learning is de-emphasising  content accumulation as a test of a student’s  knowledge and prowess and shifting the  focus on what we call their ‘processing  abilities’ or their ability to comprehend and  translate. In this new world, information is  freely available, on demand at a fraction of the  cost of traditional books – and the student has  to only sharpen his or her skills at using it to  understand or explain concepts.  

The strongest argument in favour of  blended education remains its ability to  be tailored to groups, classes, batches, or  individuals allowing for a flexibility hitherto  unavailable to the entire process of education  delivery models. This bespoke blending  can allow for individual attention or group  education as the subject or student requires.  

Now that schools are reopening, the  post-covid challenges are emerging. The  insecurities among all stakeholders – schools,  students, parents and teachers due to new  regulations will continue for some more time  before full normalcy will be restored. However,  it is clear that the transition period will have to  be managed through a combination of digital  and physical approaches to teaching and  learning. This blended pedagogy mechanism  – called the phygital–is by all estimations  going to be the way of the future as the  transition to digital education progresses  and seeps into the education system. It is  for schools and institutions to embrace this  model wholeheartedly. It is an option that  empowers flexible learning and teaching  without disruptions in a post-Covid world that continues to be fraught with insecurities and  unusual challenges. Schools can no longer do  without it. 

Also read: 50 Leaders who can revive Indian education – Divya Lal

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