Around the world, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is having a profound impact on the education sector. To safeguard children of every age, parents, families, teachers and other staff, schools and universities are closed and 1.2 billion are now studying from home.
Since around mid-March, national and local governments started closing schools and universities. In some countries, these closures came into effect even earlier. Resulting in 1.2 billion suddenly having to carrying on studying from home, as best as they possibly could.
Before the Internet and the mass use of consumer devices (laptops, smartphones, and tablets), this would have been extremely challenging, if not impossible to implement. However, we are fortunate that technology is already at the stage whereby moving from classroom to an eLearning environment is not too difficult.
Short-term impact of Covid-19 on eLearning
Before this devastating global pandemic, eLearning was already an established sector. Between apps, online learning software, virtual tutoring and massive open online courses (MOOCs), the eLearning market is expected to be worth $350 billion in 2025.
Millions around the world use eLearning tools in classrooms and studying for courses remotely. For some, eLearning apps and software is the only way to access any kind of education. However, for the majority, eLearning solutions are only an extension of classroom learning, until recently.
Now eLearning has replaced classrooms, at least temporarily. Schools across the world are likely to re-open soon. Does this mean everything is going back to normal?
No, almost certainly not. Humanity isn’t truly safe until there is a universal vaccine, developed safely, and produced and distributed at scale. Social distancing and other measures are going to be in-place, in some format, for at least 18 months, if not longer. Education can’t go back to how it was safely without the risk of infection rates increasing again.
Consequently, in the short-term, eLearning solutions to facilitate studying from home is likely to play a key role in the future of education, at least for the next 18 months. Probably for longer, as we are entering an uncertain future for the education sector. For example, will students feel safe enough to come back at the start of the next academic year? Are students, especially those at university, going to enroll into the class of 2020?
These are questions the sector is asking itself, and looking for the right solutions to maintain enrollment, education levels, and revenues, throughout the current crisis.
Related read: Digital Transformation in Higher Education: Will Universities Survive?
Longer-term impact of Covid-19
Leaders in the education sector need to ask themselves a few questions:
Are we prepared to deliver eLearning, either completely without classroom-based learning for at least 1 more academic year (or with only partial delivery in a traditional environment)?
Are the systems we are currently using fit-for-purpose (in the event of needing to deliver eLearning for longer)?
What features and systems would students and teachers benefit from?
How could we improve the eLearning experience? (This needs to include the security perspective too, because online classrooms and schools are also being targeted by cybercriminals)
Could we roll-out eLearning courses to a wider audience, and therefore expand what we are offering to even more students?
Related read: How Much Does It Cost to Develop an Educational App
Software and servers are the key. Schools and universities, and even media organizations — such as the BBC in the UK, launching 14 weeks of curriculum-based learning for kids — can create the content. However, the right systems need to be ready to deliver this over a long-term period than many were perhaps imaging when this crisis started.
Failing to think ahead for at least 1 academic year (even if a percentage of learning is delivered safely, using social distancing, and wide-scale test and trace, and wearing masks) could put an academic institution at risk. Students might not return, or could go elsewhere, unless the right mix of educational opportunities are offered safely, at scale, and with software features that provide students with the online learning experience they want and need.
Educators have to think beyond the immediate aftermath. In the future, be able to safely return to classrooms and places of learning, planning for that needs to be done alongside working out the most effective eLearning features that will give students the best experience possible. In the immediate sense, and for the foreseeable future, eLearning is going to play a big role in the education system. And if you are looking for ways to adapt to the new realities in the education industry, our team specializing in developing applications for online education will be happy to help you.