2020 turned all aspects of life upside down. New circumstances “insisted” on new solutions, so digital transformation accelerated, and new trends appeared in almost all industries. Education was on the top of the list.
At the very beginning of the pandemic, schools across the world shut down. During 2020 globally over 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom. A new era of education began – suddenly and unexpectedly, so new solutions were to be made “right there and then”. Teachers and schools have been doing their best to adjust to this strange new terrain. With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, more and more teachers are wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to persist in a post-pandemic world, and how such a shift would impact the worldwide education market.
Yet, their opinions are divided. While some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning – with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth, others believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge, with significant benefits.
Naturally, we see more disadvantages to the pandemic, but, on the other hand, there are some advantages as well. One-on-one communication between teachers and students by text and different platforms such as Microsoft Office 365 has been growing. Many schools have already managed to make successful transitions. Croatia sets a great example, where a lot of K-12 and college spaces have started using MS services and implemented everything in the Cloud in just a couple of weeks. The situation accented one controversy: although almost everything is online, a lot of teachers have realized that now, more than ever before, human connection is in the center of their job.
The effect of online learning
Moreover, a lot of research has proven than learning online can even be more effective than the traditional learning. On average, students retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mostly due to students being able to learn faster online, e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because students can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping or accelerating through concepts as they choose.
The effectiveness of online learning varies among age groups. Teachers generally agree that younger children require a structured environment – younger kids are playful, so they easily get distracted. If teachers want them to fully benefit from online learning, an additional effort must be made to provide that structure. That goes beyond replicating a physical class using video capabilities. Teachers must be highly creative to motivate children to engage. To do so, they can use a range of collaboration tools and engagement methods that promote “inclusion, personalization and intelligence”.
There are as many approaches to teaching as there are teachers in the world. Teachers around the globe use different models, from the traditional learning model to the innovative and creative classroom. Now, every teacher must adopt an innovative approach to teaching. It is hard for teachers to keep the children engaged in learning and understanding while trying to catch up with the 21st century skills, so it is vital that teachers have adequate skills and are confident to use them. It is their priority to keep the students motivated during online classes. There are certain techniques available to make their classes interactive. We are all aware that we lose concentration during long business calls that overwhelm us with too much information that cannot be easily consumed. Children feel the same when listening to long lectures, and the difficulty of subjects exhausts them so much that they lose motivation.
The case in Ukraine
How many times have you heard someone say something like: “I have to thank my elementary school teacher for choosing math, as she’s the one who made me fall in love with natural sciences.” Teachers are not just educators; they influence our life. Currently they have an important task to reinvent all traditional learning methods to make learning more engaging and fun. Regardless how difficult that job is, it also offers them opportunities to learn and set the education to the higher level than ever before.
The beginning is usually the hardest. A lot of teachers have struggled to switch to the remote learning, but they have been helped by several specifically organized programs offering them opportunities to learn new methods in education and apply them on their students. For example, ‘EdCamp’ in Ukraine enabled teachers to learn how to use technology to improve their job in a creative and collaborative way that could help while connecting with their students on a daily basis. The situation also showed that the roles can be switched. In Ukraine students created a bot to help teachers to move to remote learning, to embrace technology and better understand the whole ‘hybrid school’ concept. The story has proven that we learn our whole life and that knowledge sometimes arrives from an unexpected source.
Travelling online – easier than ever before with the help of the digital tools
Most of the borders are still closed, but they remained open online. Being online means that the whole world is our stage, so why not using pandemic “to visit” different countries and learn more about their culture? In early summer of 2020 the students from 12 countries united to learn and grow together at the unique event, International Lesson of the English language. Digital tools enabled them to virtually cross national borders and connect with peers from around the world. More than 120 students and their teachers from 13 schools from 12 countries met online in Microsoft Teams. The event enabled them to spread their wings, meet new friends, practice their English, and find out more about other countries. Students presented their history, culture, cuisine, traditions, sports and tourist attractions via Microsoft Teams video call. They chatted, asked questions in English and certainly learned some new and useful words and phrases. That is a great example of the new approach to learning that proves that it can be relaxing and fun!
New chapter of education
Today learning is so much more than mere sitting in the classroom. Children use computers for education, but social media and games can also be the sources of new knowledge. During last summer, schools in Slovenia and Latvia gave their students the opportunity to learn something with their favorite YouTubers. In Latvia, the idea was to show children (and teachers) how to use Teams platform in education in a creative way, to make learning fun and to strengthen students’ team spirit. And what would work better than getting to learn along with their favorite YouTuber? The whole project was organized by Latvian local YouTuber Edgar Fresh as the main character. 8th grade students had a special lesson focused on team building and fun activities on Teams platform. Edgar Fresh joined the lesson as a surprise guest and organized different activities – games, quizzes, contests. In the end of the lesson, together with the students, he created a special “THANK YOU” note for their teacher to thank him for the initiative and put it in a video.
In Slovenia, local YouTuber Jože Robežnik known as JocoHud created two videos where he was explaining ‘How using Teams and all the Team features can help with remote learning’. In his first video the main point was about using Teams and what you can do daily while using Teams. The other video was more focused on the safety of the Teams. Those two projects were enjoyed by young audience, because, besides the opportunity to learn something new, it gave them a chance to communicate with their favorite content creator.
Children love video games, so teachers around the globe can turn that love into a learning process. More than 400 Lithuanian schools used Office 365 and Minecraft to help children learn something new while playing. Students got the opportunity to go to the International Space Station, virtually review the sights, search for 3D building materials, and use them to create a distinctive world of Minecraft.
At first it may seem that the technology ruins all the fun of learning and being in school with friends. However, that is not the case if we use it in the right way to connect, learn and have fun while learning. Different games, quizzes, working in groups, knowledge battles…
The possibilities are endless if we get creative and get support from the right technology! We can learn from the education process as well – yes, it has severely adapted, as schools and teachers were proactive and took actions. They have looked ahead, did some planning and focused on solutions, not problems. That is also a valuable insight for life – not a recipe for happiness, but for a happier outlook.