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How is COVID-19 impacting online education

e-learning

The nationwide COVID-19 lockdown has forced K-12 schools and universities to close and send their students home which, in turn, has impacted over 91% of the world’s student population. The closure has placed unprecedented challenges on governments, institutions, teachers, parents and care givers around the world.

Many countries are continuing to handle this disruption by deploying different modes of learning through a mix of technologies. In almost all countries, teachers and school administrators are encouraged to continue the communication with learners by delivering virtual live lessons or Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)-styled ones. 

Online education, a result of the digital world has brought a lot to the learning table at all levels of education, beginning from preschool up to higher level institutions. The move to remote learning has been enabled by several online tech stack such as Google Classroom, Blackboard, Zoom and Microsoft Teams, all of which play an important role in this transformation. With the development of ICT in education, online video-based micro-courses, e-books, simulations, models, graphics, animations, quizzes, games, and e-notes are making learning more accessible, engaging, and contextualized. 

Schools have always considered educational apps or digital learning as a supplementary tool and may have had difficulty in mainstreaming it, mostly due to not having fully understood its efficacy. However, the current situation has given us a fillip to accelerate the adoption of technology and experiment with online learning and measure its success.

As the digital learning acceleration continues, it also throws light on the digital divide in India. Students from remote districts and those belonging to poor communities lack the infrastructure and the means to reap the benefits of online learning. Greater penetration of telecom network and rolling out 5G services will give a huge impetus to this sector. 

India is going to witness a 50% increase in students over the next 15 years and although it has many universities and colleges, only few have the facilities to match this surge of students in the future. Online education could be a logical solution to accommodate this problem. The government of India, for the first time, is allowing Indian universities to offer online degrees which previously was limited to foreign universities. Now, to encourage and widen the access to higher education, this restriction has been lifted from 20% to offer 100% courses online.

The sudden, forced immersion of learners into virtual learning during this period of Covid-19 has proved that the education industry is disrupted. Education is going to be digital in the foreseeable future and with the right infrastructure and policies in place, we would be better prepared to handle it.

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