The recent global lockdown highlighted the benefits of online learning. Virtual learning apps enabled students to continue their education off-campus and showed that there is a different and much better way of doing things in the future.
In fact, many experts believe online learning is here to stay. Its most optimistic supporters believe online learning will usher in an educational revolution, providing millions of people with affordable access to life-changing educational opportunities.
However, there are still some important questions to answer. For example, can online learning compete with learning in a traditional classroom? And do employers value online qualifications?
So here's a look at the quality of online education, and at the proposition of one organisation, which has been leading the way in providing internationally recognised online courses long before the arrival of COVID-19.
Education didn't stop during lockdown. Instead, it moved online. Schools and colleges adopted a wide range of virtual learning tools and software, including virtual tutoring platforms and learning management systems.
Google Classroom turned out to be a popular choice for many schools. It's a free app which works as an all-in-one online learning platform. Features include video conferencing for one-to-one tutoring, virtual classrooms, and shared drives for learning resources or work assignments. It surpassed 50 million downloads during the lockdown, making it the number one learning app on Play Store.
Rising to the challenge of online learning
Many educational institutions were unprepared for the switch to online learning. Also, many struggled to provide the same quality of teaching, especially during the first weeks of lockdown.
Moreover, students from disadvantaged backgrounds found it hard to keep up with their virtual classmates. Some did not have regular access to a laptop or tablet, while many others had limited (or non-existent) WiFi connections.
Thankfully, administrators responded effectively to these new challenges. In New Orleans, USA, School Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr oversaw the purchase of 8,000 WIFI hotspots, with another 6,000 on the way over the next few months. Public subsidiaries are also helping students get their own laptops and internet-enabled devices.
Online access is now an essential service
The lockdown showed how unequal access to the internet could exacerbate socio-economic inequalities. Now many people are reassessing the very idea of online access. Some are calling it an essential service, and maybe even a fundamental human right.
This has led to a renewed interest in the Connecting for Inclusion initiative. Funded by the World Bank, it's already allocated more than $1 billion to building better digital infrastructures in developing African countries like Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Liberia. Current projects include helping 35 landlocked and island nations build affordable broadband services for all their citizens by the end of this year.
More options are still needed
While online learning has been on the rise for some time, the range of study options is still relatively limited. In France, only around 10% of higher education courses were accessible online before the pandemic. The number has risen since, although most courses tend to focus on skills for white-collar jobs. As a result, students interested in more practical professions, such as carpentry or mechanical repair, have fewer options. So, they have to put their career plans on hold for the next period of time.
Also some students compromise by selecting less suitable programmes, fearing that if they postpone their studies, they will be left behind in a highly competitive job market.
In other words, there's still lots of work to be done before online learning becomes genuinely inclusive. Broadening the range of online courses on offer is essential, if online learning is to fulfill its potential.
There are reasons for optimism, though. Advances in robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality could soon help students learn hands-on skills without stepping foot inside a workshop or laboratory. Companies such as Diverse Interactive have already developed VR training simulators for medical students and trainee surgeons.
The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) recently released a report on e-learning. It looks at how universities are maintaining e-learning standards, as well as possible areas of improvement in the future. Key challenges include integrating parts of the curriculum that don't match the online model, including laboratory work and other practical training.
However, the report gives a big vote of confidence to distance learning and is very encouraging for those who are still unsure about enrolling in an online programme. The report clearly states that there is no reason to distrust the quality of online education. Moreover, it highlights several of the extra benefits enjoyed by online students, including flexibility and affordability.
So if you're looking for a flexible and affordable way to boost your future career opportunities with affordable price short courses in various subjects, then visit – www.needmentoring.cvom.