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Classrooms Coexisting as Physical Spaces & Virtual Environments! Is That that the Future of Learning & Education?
Covid-19 has emerged as an inflection point for online education/e-learning. The pandemic which resulted in schools and colleges being shut across the world, has given impetus to online education, which emerged as a savior for millions of students of all ages ranging from K-12 to university students. Using online tools, tutors have been able to provide continuity in curriculum. Online education, which was already witnessing high growth in the recent past, grew exponentially with the onset of the pandemic. Collaboration and video calling platforms such as Zoom and Lark have also witnessed huge demand for their platforms owing to the surge in online education due to the pandemic. With the pandemic still raging across the world, schools and universities are expected to remain closed in the immediate future and provide education online. Online education has proven its usefulness during the current crisis, and the benefits have been recognized by all the stakeholders. Fast forwarding the adoption of online education is expected to drive parallel use of innovative digital technologies, which will emerge into the mainstream learning and education channel sooner than expected.
Online learning/education offers various benefits such as convenience & flexibility, and choice. In addition, online learning is a cost effective alternative. Online education enables students to pursue the course of their choice at their own pace. Depending on the interests of the student, the choices available for online education are increasing at a rapid pace and are even equivalent to regular university education choices in select areas. Students can pursue the course of their choice depending on their interests such as learning additional courses over and above regular education. For instance, students interested in pursuing hobbies such as art classes can complete the course without affecting their regular academic curriculum. In addition to the choice of courses available, online education offers flexibility to the student to learn at his or her own pace such as after hours or over weekends. Apart from the choices and flexibility, online education is accessible from across the world. A computer and a stable internet connection are the only pre-requisites for pursuing education online. The anywhere accessibility enables students from rural/remote locations to pursue the course of their choice without having to migrate to large cities. Online education holds immense potential for improving the education standards in remote areas across the world such as in African countries. Several forms and types of e-learning are beginning take shape ranging from pure online, mixed learning, synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, computer-based training, digital collaboration, web-based learning, virtual education to audio visual engagement. Few of the factors responsible for shaping growth of e-learning in the academic and corporate environment include fast-paced advancements in Internet technology including high-speed internet access, bandwidth expansion, and launch of 4G/LTE networks; e-learning service innovations; development new and potent e-learning technologies; rapid penetration of smartphones and tablets and increase use of the same for education supported by digitalizing lifestyles of consumers; falling mobile data and fixed line internet tariffs and the ensuing robust rise in Internet users; growing wave of BYOD in enterprises and the resulting popularity of implementing corporate e-learning and training via tablets and smartphones; and favorable government initiatives that support the use of technology in education.
In addition, with Generation Z making up the large portion of the student population, teaching and learning methods are forced to undergo several changes in accordance with the needs and preferences of the younger generation. The instruction style will need to be adapted in line with the interests, goals, and challenges of the students. The trend towards digital technologies will remain primary among the changes wrought. With Gen Z students, focus needs to be on ensuring that the students are prepared to function well in a work environment that is technology-oriented. Gen Z students differ from the students of the previous generation. Such differences impact the manner in which they develop, learn, and work in the classroom. Educational institutions are making investments in technologies such as interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and mobile device apps to productively engage with these students. Teaching needs to and is beginning to transition from the structured auditory technique to hands-on visual approach. Understanding the key traits of Gen Z students enables in adapting to their needs. Gen Z students, given their significant use of technologies and social media and the instant gratification they obtain while using them, seek autonomy in their learning and fast feedback on their study assignments. Born during 1997-2012,Gen Z are digital natives, capable of teaching themselves, connect easily with virtual spaces, are creative and can use several screens and multi task. Their thinking, learning, and behavior are different from that of the people of prior generations. Gen Z considers technology to be a vital part of their lives. But as most of their learning has been from the internet, it poses challenges to conventional education. It has been observed that many Gen Z individuals access a video platform for over 3 hours per day and have a preference for using YouTube for learning purposes, while a smaller portion prefer learning with the guidance of a teacher. Software can be leveraged to create educational games and innovative and interactive presentations, among others. Rather than using lengthy lectures, innovative teaching approaches can be used for such students. Visuals such as multimedia, graphics, and charts can be used to make the study material more interesting. The future of learning & education is undeniably changing and bended learning models and flipped classrooms are evolving as effective ways to impart knowledge in the 21st century.
» Future of Learning & Education
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