It goes without saying that every organisation and industry around the world is being affected by COVID-19, especially education.
According to the OECD, every week of school closures will cause a massive loss in the development of human capital with significant long-term economic and social implications.
But while this is a strong test for education systems, it could also present an opportunity to develop alternative teaching methods such as digital learning and online collaboration.
The use of online platforms
In the wake of school closures, different forms of online education and teaching resources have been made available. Thankfully, many tertiary education institutions already deliver online courses anyway.
In the UK, there have been thousands of schools and teachers developing their own content, mastering how to deliver it via Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This is often complemented by private educational platforms, which provide materials and quizzes for pupils to complete.
Elsewhere in the world, teachers and schools have been trying to understand what lies ahead and how to best prepare for every possible scenario. This presents an opportunity to cross collaborate on a global scale to mutualise existing online resources and ideas.
As the OECD explains: “Countries and sometimes regions within countries have different curricula, they tend to teach similar subjects and could consider translating and using foreign digital resources aligned with their curriculum… to provide teachers with digital learning opportunities, offering online teacher training resources on how to teach online.”
Challenges of implementing new ways of teaching
Despite the advantages that distance learning and online education can provide, it might not come naturally to teachers and students. For this reason, policy makers must consider ways to:
- Balance digital with screen-free activities – Replacing the schooling hours by online lectures is likely to have a toll on students’ health.
- Keep track of students’ emotional health – The context of the virus combined with school closures has the potential to be unsettling for students.
- Access to devices – Students are more likely to have access to smartphones rather than laptops at home, which could force the hand of governments to provide better learning resources.
- Manage access to IT infrastructure – Having all students connected at the same time may be a problem in some places.
Long term opportunities
“The current wave of school closures offers an opportunity for experimentation and for envisioning new models of education and new ways of using the face-to-face learning time,” says the OECD. Options could include:
- Secure systems for taking exams from home – This is especially true of summer examinations in England, where teacher assessments will now be used to form grades. However, one notable disruption will be for high stake exams, which often require no access to resources and strict identification of the exam taker.
- Different time and schooling models – Students are used to busy timetables and workloads, but new solutions may be explored to provide more opportunities for greater autonomy.
- Making the most of digital advances – Teachers will have the opportunity to test out different digital learning solutions, and understand how technology can be used to foster deeper student learning.
- Using the variations across countries to learn – If the lesson ideas of individual countries are documented, their effectiveness could then be shared and analysed internationally.