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.
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