How did we learn when we were kids? We went to school and sat in a classroom with 30-40 other kids our age and a teacher taught us a pre-defined syllabus. We went to school 5 days a week for around six hours per day. We moved from one grade to the next and gradually acquired knowledge. Let’s discuss how Future of Education Post COVID looks like.
Traditional School Education System
- All the children in the class followed the same syllabus
- All the children in the class had to learn in the same pace and speed.
- All the children in the class got tested by the same test paper
- All the children in the class got tested for everything they were taught.
- The children were graded and ranked based on their average performance in all the subjects.
As children we were taught a structured, pre-defined set of things where we were forced to be good at everything. We had extracurricular activities in schools such as sports, drama, poetry, music, dancing etc. However, if were too focused on sports and incompetent in the classroom, the chances were our parents would drag us out of sports and forced us to be competent in the classroom.
Traditional University and Higher Education
Next step after completing school education for 13 years is to study for a degree, professional qualification or a diploma. Once you reach this stage it is crucial to select a path which you are going to be specialized in. Yes, it is a very crucial decision. Why? Because you are probably going to spend 3 to 5 years completing your higher studies and then you do not have time to change your path. If you select a path which you are not very competent at, you are going to suffer for long years to come. If you select a path you are not passionate about, your life is going to be a living hell.
This is how critical the decision of higher education was for us. To make such a critical decision how many options we had? Not many. In most of Sri Lankan households your career aspiration should be to become either a doctor, engineer, lawyer, banker or a disgrace to the family. Those were the options available. I’m not even sure that the generation Z would be able to comprehend this concept.
Traditional thinking of Career and Job market
After completing your higher studies, you will start your career in the particular field you got yourself specialized in and you will end up working in that field until you retire. It’s a very narrow path and chances of someone deviating from this path was extremely rare. What happen if there is a sudden change in the particular industry or career your specialized in? Well, your livelihood would be challenged and you will struggle a lot.
What COVID-19 Pandemic taught us?
COVID-19 pandemic was a complete life changer. It changed so many things revolving around us within a matter of days. It changed everything which was normal and created a new normal. Learning and education system around the world has also changed.
We used to go to school, college or university to learn. We got used to the classroom setup and designated time period a day to learn. We had face to face interaction with our tutors and lecturers. We were able to reach them easily in our learning establishment. We interacted with our classmates, batchmates and other students who were in the same class. We did assignments together and we built close relationships with our peers.
All of a sudden, students around the world got stranded in their houses. Learning and education system switched from face to face to online. Education institutes started using online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Team, Google Meet and their own in house online platforms to reach their students. Learning and education came in to the living room of the learner.
This system gave its advantages as well as disadvantages. Let’s look at the advantages first.
- Virtual learning took away the time limitation for learning. Now the learner has the flexibility to learn on their schedule.
- Virtual learning is a huge time saver. It cuts down the time of commuting for the learner and hence the learner can use that time productively.
- Virtual learning takes away the geographical barriers. Earlier for someone live in Sri Lanka to be graduated from the Harvard university had to relocate to where the university is located. Virtual learning allows you to learn anything from anywhere in the world.
- Virtual learning can bring down the cost of learning tremendously. Just imagine the cost of a foreign degree including your travel and relocation cost. Its not affordable for many students. In virtual learning you actually have to pay only for the particular course or degree.
- Education can be more inclusive. No one will be discriminated or at a disadvantage due to various limitations in a virtual learning environment.
Remote/virtual learning can have it own disadvantages as well.
- No social interactions. It’s not easy to have networking and social interactions in a virtual learning environment. This is an extremely important segment of learning and development. Humans have social needs. It makes a huge impact in a person’s character. Specially for school children who are getting introduced to society through the school system, can be in a big disadvantage.
- It’s hard to facilitate hands on learning in a virtual learning platform. This is challenge, especially in education fields where lab training and mechanical training is vital.
- You may not get that prestigious feeling of being a part of a prestigious university, college or a school in a virtual setup. This can be less motivating for some students.
- Free education can be challenged. This is the biggest disadvantage of virtual learning, especially in countries where free education system is in practice. The majority of children in countries like Sri Lanka, get the privilege of getting school education irrespective of their financial background purely because its free. When school education switch to virtual platforms, every single child is forced to have internet and a smartphone or a computer to have access to education. This is not affordable for many households in developing countries like Sri Lanka.
Ability to Learn/Unlearn/Reskill and Upskill
In the modern era it is highly unlikely for an individual to survive by being specialized in single area. As an example, this is a very challenging time for someone who is specialized in tourism industry or travel industry. This is the reason for many people around the world to be unemployed in this crisis.
Now you have to be open minded to learn new skills, unlearn skills which are no longer going to serve you, upskill yourself or reskill yourself to match the current requirements in the market. You have access to so much of resources to learn new skills at a very affordable price and change your career path. Eg: Online learning platforms such as Udemy, Cousera, Skillshare, Edx etc.
There were many people who were doing paper-based jobs and was not at all familiar with digital equipment. This cannot be an excuse when you had to do your job from home remotely. You should be able to quickly change into cloud systems, virtual meetings and remote working to survive.
Think Learning and Education in a Global Perspective.
Now is the time to break the geographical barriers and think about education in a global perspective. If you are a lecturer or a trainer now your student base can be global and unlimited. Just think about how much potential this can bring to you. You just need a very good internet connection and use the services of a free or paid virtual training platform. You can educate and enlighten anyone anywhere in the world.
If you are eager to learn, you have no barriers. You do not have to stick to one specialization all through out your life. If you hate what you are doing or your expertise is no longer valid, just switch and learn something else. You can absolutely learn anything from anyone in the world. Again, all you need is a very good internet connection, a laptop and most importantly an open mind.
Digitization was happening even before pandemic. Due to COVID-19 pandemic the change accelerated to a rocket speed. Even though we not totally ready, the change is here and hence there is no escape. You are a part of learning and education industry as a trainer/lecturer or a learner/trainee or both. Just stop for a while and think about the new normal and adjust yourself to face the future successfully.
Wish you all the very best for your journey in modern learning.
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