Possibilities in Education beyond COVID:
Online learning is the big winner from this – across all education levels; so proving quality now is at centre stage. However, going ahead, in the post COVID times, blended learning will be the way to go. The biggest future benefits of virtual instruction will come after our professors and students return to their physical classrooms. The necessity of teaching and learning with asynchronous (Canvas, Blackboard, D2L) and synchronous (Zoom) platforms will yield significant benefits when these methods are layered into face-to-face instruction. We will come back from COVID-19 with a much more widely shared understanding that digital tools are complements, not substitutes, for the intimacy and immediacy of face-to-face learning. Since professors are now moving content online, precious classroom time will be more productively utilized for discussion, debate and guided practice.
Moving ahead in the New Normal, teacher may more be called a mentor now as information and knowledge are at the fingertips of the students faster than that of the teachers, especially the grown-up learners, post 16 years let’s say. It was so earlier too, but even the facade of higher knowledge (read, degrees, age and experience) is not the greatest of value moving ahead. So mentors shall be needed to inspire, motivate, direct to a new domain of learning or action, bring in perspectives, lend shoulder to a grieving youth, but not just for knowledge and information which are anyways available.
Similarly, student can now be a true learner. They were always so. But the onus of learning is all the more on the learner now on (in the earlier regime teachers teach, students study). Students study for exams, marks and degrees, under the tutelage of teachers, with a structured syllabus. Learners learn within and beyond the classroom, from mentors and others, for lifetime use of knowledge for a career and life, within and beyond the syllabus, structured or unstructured, online or offline.
Engagement is the new currency in the post COVID education, as much as in entertainment. For a long time, the grievance in the classroom was that students are not present and neither interested to learn. That challenge is universal. But digital allows the learner to be engaged at his time, place and pace. And that is good enough. It is a qualitatively different world ahead. Good and bad education will not be decided by marks and numbers of degree certificates handed. It will be decided by the level of academic and related online and social media engagement of the learners, the quality of content shared by mentors, and the value and volume of content generated by engaged learners.