The Impending New Normal in Education and The Post COVID-19 Teachers

The novel Coronavirus disease has had devastating consequences in various sectors of the economy around the world. Education is arguably the hardest hit sector with the pandemic rendering more than 1 billion learners across the world stranded. As a matter of fact, the last time that education was disrupted in such a global scale was during the Second World War, which goes to show just how destructive this respiratory illness is. The future of many people in the academic field seems rather bleak given that we only seem to be getting more questions than answers concerning the menacing disease. Still, this sudden disruption has also given major stakeholders in the educational realm a chance to review how they can efficiently educate future generations.

When it comes to Education and COVID-19, there are still many uncertainties to determine how things will eventually pan out. Having said that, it’s also important to note that one of the outcomes that’s most likely to happen is a drastic decline in revenue and increase in costs for many learning institutions. Since universities and colleges have the biggest budgets of all educational institutions, they’re required to act swiftly so as to ensure that they don’t resort to laying off staff. Even so, technology has stepped in to bridge the gap between teachers and students.

How The Education Sector Is Responding to COVID-19

We’ve been playing the waiting game for quite some time as medical experts seek for an appropriate way to eradicate the Coronavirus disease. Unless an amicable solution is found in the near future, we’ll have to find a way to get the ball rolling again in the educational front. Even as we look to resume learning activities in schools, the safety of every student is a matter that should be of high priority. In order for this to be successful, here are some important alterations that need to be put in place.

Emphasis on Digital Learning

Due to the regulations put in place to curb the spread of Coronavirus, most activities have been brought to a standstill. However, thanks to the leaps made in technology, students are still able to engage in learning activities. There are several ways in which students can use modern technology to receive schoolwork and interact with teachers even as many countries are still under lockdown. By utilizing platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom, students can receive instructions from their teachers alongside fellow classmates just like it would’ve happened in a physical classroom. On top of making learning possible during these uncertain times, research has shown that online learning is also more time-efficient and can help improve knowledge retention. Owing to this, we’re likely to see many schools embracing online learning even after the pandemic has passed.

Apart from conferencing platforms, the internet also has a sea of recorded information that’s readily available for students to access. Albeit some of the platforms offering such services usually have a fee, most of them have discounts to allow more learners to access the vital resources they require. In addition, some schools in different districts have even merged forces to create educational broadcasts to cater for various learning groups. Famous media broadcasters such as the BBC have also contributed to virtual learning by providing curriculum-based education on their online platforms.

Reduced Classroom Capacity

COVID-19 is a highly infectious respiratory disease; therefore, in order to reduce the chances of widespread infections in schools, the total capacity of classrooms and lecture halls needs to be reduced to a minimum. Students will need to be spread across several classrooms in order to ensure that social distancing guidelines are followed. Alternatively, schools can also make use of multipurpose halls since they can hold multiple students at once. Moreover, the sitting arrangements in classrooms should also be altered in order to allow social distancing. With regards to lecture halls that have fixed sitting positions, clear markings ought to be placed to indicate the seats that can be occupied.

The Future of Education Post COVID-19

Inasmuch as the future of education is somewhat uncertain, we can be sure that technology will definitely be a big factor for the sector in the coming days. There have already been various ways in which technology has been integrated into education even before the onset of the virus; however, the pandemic has definitely accelerated the process. Nevertheless, there’s still a big divide between people who think that this is the right move and those who feel like it’s quite a drastic change. While some might argue that this move is unplanned and won’t lead to sustainable growth, others believe that we can make use of technology to create a hybrid education system that’s superior to the traditional model. For this reason, many institutions are exploring the possibility of adopting this new model of curriculum to complement classroom learning even after the pandemic.

Although online learning has been adopted in order to facilitate learning during these turbulent times, there’s no denying that it has proven to be superior in a number of ways. For instance, research has shown that online learning is faster compared to the traditional classroom setting. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that e-learning allows students to learn at their own pace, with the liberty to repeat, fast forward, or skip a lesson depending on their academic capabilities. Nevertheless, there are some challenges that hinder online education from going completely mainstream. One of the major challenges is the digital divide between students who have access to e-learning resources and those who don’t.

Redefining the Role of Tutors

Teachers have always been perceived as knowledge-holders since time immemorial; however, their role is being altered in order to better suit the changing times. Given that learners can access knowledge and skills on various subjects with just a few clicks or touches, teachers are left with the responsibility of molding students into valuable members of the community. On top of that, educators will still be required to provide the necessary guidance that’s needed in order for learners to become successful in their respective fields.

Conclusion

The Coronavirus pandemic has certainly brought the education sector to its knees. In order to safeguard their future, an ingenious plan needs to be formulated. All in all, the most important thing to look out for is the well-being of each student, regardless of what the future holds for education.

 

Short bios:
Francisca is a Professor of Computing and Director of Research and Innovations at Kampala International University.
Janice is a Professor of Education and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Kampala International University.



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