The number of students not attending schools or universities due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 is growing rapidly. This is why governments around the world have decided to convert education to electronic form. While the Covid-19 pandemic significantly pushed the digitalization of the learning process, it also exposed major stumbling blocks in this way.
COVID-19 Shakes Up World’s Education Systems
The transition of universities and schools to distance learning in connection with the spread of coronavirus infection and the introduction of a self-isolation regime has become a challenge for global education.
The total number of students affected by the pandemic and various types of restrictions that it caused is today more than 1,2 billion in 160 countries. And this is a huge challenge for the entire education system.
The transition to online learning raises a lot of questions. In developing countries, not all students have access to technology and the Internet. And for teachers, it is unclear how to efficiently work from home, conduct practical exercises, and rebuild their entire educational programs. In such a situation, it is important to analyze the adopted forms and methods of education, successful cases, and programs.
Before the coronavirus, the suggestions of wide-scale adoption of distance learning caused serious objections. These included the assertion that it is impossible to transfer knowledge by one-sided influence, without interacting with students and taking into account their personal characteristics and the specifics of their needs and capabilities.
However, the forced transition to distance learning in schools and universities has shown that e-education faces completely different challenges.
New Challenges of Distance Learning
There are several major problems that educational institutions are faced with during distance e-learning. The first is the technical capabilities of universities: it is important to have modern equipment and servers that can download and transfer huge amounts of data.
Moreover, universities have to make sure that their equipment OSs correspond to all cybersecurity guidelines. Thus, the technical characteristics of networks play a large role in the field of e-learning at present.
The second point is organizational. All educational courses of a certain school/college must be carried out via one united system. Teachers need such a system to enroll students in the course, assign tasks, observe the process of its accomplishment, and set the control points.
Only the availability of such systems allows the teachers and students to organize the learning process and would work in one particular space.
The third challenge is an Internet connection. The reliance on it grew dramatically. For example, if earlier it was needed just for doing research and minor learning process-related communication, now, it accommodates long live classes engaging a wide audience.
It often happens that the frequency range for Wifi is narrow, and sometimes it just is not enough for a huge concentration of people. Given that all students are studying from home now, it is possible that routers can simply block each other and the Internet doesn’t work well. This pushed the members of the learning process to look for alternative and back-up solutions like using a portable modem to get a fast and secure Internet connection.
New Opportunities Unlocked
The e-learning opens lots of new opportunities and accelerates the digitalization of education. It is known that each new stage in the development of the economy and society leads to a change in the needs (demand) for certain knowledge and skills. As a result, the content, methods, and means of training change too. The use of information technology in the educational process leads to the necessity to develop digital competencies and skills.
Only now, universities have massively understood that it requires a serious revision of all teaching methods based on the traditional lecture-seminar system, the transformation of MOOC from exotic to everyday life. COVID-19 served as a specific trigger, a marker that draws a line for all old models.
The biggest challenge of tomorrow is to change practices. The students need to do more independent work to be able to quickly integrate into the restructuring labor market after graduation.
The remote format of education offers a range of opportunities that can be folded in different ways. For instance, e-learning provides the ability to:
- save time needed to get to the place of study
- work in a comfortable home environment
- move lessons schedule
- record and revise lessons
- study with a teacher located in another city or country
- expand the circle of teachers
- listen to the same lesson from several teachers looking at the topic from different angles, seeing possible approaches and methods for its development and disclosure.
Today the world is on the verge of the fourth – “digital” – revolution, which means that there is a need to introduce new educational technologies. Institutions around the world organize the learning process in a remote format using online platforms.
Thanks to these educational programs, a student in Mexico can attend a German university directly from home or take a German course with foreign participants. Distance education has lots of advantages. The only thing that students and teachers now need is to organize the process accurately and ensure a safe Internet connection. This means that the process of obtaining knowledge has become easier and more convenient nowadays.