As the virulent spread of the coronavirus Education , disruption a series of announcements have been made to completely shut down schools, colleges, universities, coaching institutes, and other educational establishments across the globe in order to enforce social distancing and stop human-to-human contamination. The action, however, has put millions of students at the risk of study loss, and they are left with no resources that can help them continue to learn.
As per a UNESCO report, about 1.54 billion children are estimated to get affected due to COVID-19 closures, and over 111 million girls across the least developed countries happen to be the biggest losers. These large numbers are feared to lose months of learning, and even if the situation gets behind us, the costs of bringing these students back on track will go up sharply.
From the business perspective, the closures have created tremendous financial pressure on the incumbents, endangering their continuity. With no revenue coming in, schools and colleges will eventually be forced to roll out pay cuts and put teachers and professors respectively on the chopping block—a scenario that will contribute to the global surge in unemployment claims.
The COVID-19 situation has hit some uncomfortable chords, but it has also created a ripple effect leading to educational innovation. Since the traditional methods of learning have failed to endure the wave of change understandably, academic institutions have turned to digital mediums to stay active on the ground. Though it’s too early to decide how substantial the results are, the signs suggest that the pandemic-led digitization of the industry will meet unprecedented success.
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Digital 3.0 in Education: Helping Incumbents Combat the COVID-19 Crisis
The education industry has relatively been slow in adapting to digital disruption. With centuries-old, lecture-based approaches, outmoded classrooms, and an entrenched resistance to eliminate institutional biases, they have been far from being frontrunners of change. However, the COVID-19 events have raised the red flags for the industry and pushed its path to digital innovation 3.0. Below, we have discussed how the education sector is responding to the new reality and addressing value chain risks.
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- The Culture of ‘Learning Anywhere, Anytime’ Gains Ground
As lockdowns have left millions of students stranded, a growing percentage of academic institutions are fostering a culture of digital learning. Online classes have become the most viable solution to ensure an uninterrupted flow of education. Many schools and colleges have built intranet systems and enabled a shift towards video broadcasting tools such as Zoom, Google Hangout, and WebEx to provide learning at home. Moreover, the pandemic-led barriers have prompted educational institutions to use asynchronous learning programs as Discussion Board and Digital Library, with an aim to help students interact with online content, albeit in the absence of a facilitator.
To further address the challenges of remote learning, a number of institutions have augmented the use of real-time messaging and social media channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube, and are striving to make online learning opportunities optimized for low bandwidth and low latency conditions to ensure education for the hardest-to-reach children. Rapid advancements in the 5G technology are also helping schools and colleges disseminate information with a multiplier effect and embrace the ‘learning anytime, anywhere’ culture, which has largely been evasive in many aspects.
- EdTech Firms Grow in Popularity
EdTech firms have struggled to gain traction in the markets, particularly with the industry’s predisposition towards traditional, in-classroom approaches. However, with COVID-19 causing academic institutions to shut down, EdTech players are set for an inevitable boom.
In a matter of weeks, we have seen several EdTech companies—Dreambox Learning, Schoology, Sparx, BYJU’s, and upGrad to name a few—aggressively seizing the opportunity and bagging new customers by offering free access to their content platforms. They are increasingly making use of interactive apps to ensure massive engagement in live-streaming classes, providing online tutorials, and innovating around different virtual measures—all to reinforce their position as a bankable alternative for learning at scale.
- Exams and Evaluations Intelligized
The role of online learning solutions in conducting exams and assessing students’ performances while also minimizing errors and biases has always remained a point of contention. Time and again, experts have spoken about how these digital platforms miss the mark when it comes to ensuring the fair conduct of the examinations. However, with online pedagogy on the rise amidst COVID-19, several platforms, powered by new-age digital technologies, have come to light that effectively square up to the challenge.
Known as Automated Online Proctoring solutions, they help teachers create online tests in a variety of formats, including skills, multiple-choice, typing, essay, and aptitude-based among more. Using audio-visual analytics and suspicious browsing activity that get recorded during the exam, these platforms monitor conscious and unconscious movements and postures of the students to spot anomalies in a snap, immediately warn or block the candidate, and avoid fraudulent activities to ensure a cheat-proof process. As far as impersonation is concerned, the in-built facial recognition technology authenticates the candidate and provides a confidence score to indicate the right match. In case a variation is recorded, the system quickly responds by restricting access and safeguards the integrity of the test.
On the assessment front, these automated proctoring solutions come with an intuitive and configurable multi-section window where a grader can toggle across multiple settings to deliver simple and clear assessments. The AI-enabled video interview capabilities further help the user screen and vet candidates based on insights, meaning that any attempt to fudge the numbers and let weaker candidates crack the interview can be successfully foiled within minutes. Besides, the provision to help graders generate comprehensive candidate reports by gauging the performance and using integrity scores comes as a pro benefit.
Online proctoring solutions have been around for a while, but become a victim of neglect. However, in a world hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, these platforms are experiencing an uptick in market engagement and have found themselves an active role in strengthening the field of digital learning.
- The Digital Divide Slims Down
In the wake of COVID-19 and the subsequent closures, teachers ended up facing the immediate need of conducting online classes for the homebound students. However, a key issue at hand was their digital skills shortage that could potentially hold back the promise of digital learning. Fortunately, the educational institutions were quick to act and accelerated efforts to help their workforces scale and adapt to the new dynamics of work.
At present, millions of schools and colleges are using a range of online learning solutions to upskill their teachers/professors and empower their roles in sustaining the education system. A slew of digital training sessions, workshops, and webinars are being organized to keep the faculties up to speed with emerging needs and help them ensure the continuity of learning in every way possible. Teachers and school administrators are encouraged to use real-time communication tools for information sharing and enabling relationship continuity with the parents or guardians of the students. Counseling sessions have also been prioritized to instill confidence in teachers, empower them to make a seamless transition, from chalkboards to digital screens, and help them feel secure in the new environment.
- Public-Private Partnerships Lead the Change
With COVID-19 pandemic rearing its ugly head, the global education industry is abuzz with updates of several coalitions and partnerships taking place to make sure that learning never stops. To cite an example, the Ministry of Education (MoE) in China formed a consortium of educational institutions to build a cloud-based remote learning platform and upgrade the existing educational infrastructure, aiming to replace classroom learning with digital learning. Treading on similar lines, a consortium of over 60 educational organizations in Hong Kong came forward to provide educational assets with the sole intention of keeping remote learning platforms up and running.
These instances are a testimony to the fact that education innovation, in times of COVID-19, is the highest interest of all, and every organization, irrespective of its public or private nature, has come together to help advance the right of education. With the passage of time, the world could see a force of large-scale, cross-industry coalitions emerging to ensure uninterrupted access to education while remaining unflinching in the face of remarkable challenges.