As we embark on a new year against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to live in an extraordinary age of mass school closures and distance learning. Despite the challenges that remote learning has presented for students, educators, and parents across the globe, the learning community has demonstrated great resilience and innovation in the face of disruption.
Education technology has emerged during this period as an indispensable tool for many schools, enabling students to not only continue their education, but thrive with the additional flexibility and personalized support that many online learning platforms provide.
School closures and the ensuing need for remote learning provisions have propelled edtech into the limelight, increasing awareness of online learning platforms and digital resources to a much wider audience than before. It is no surprise then to discover that venture capital investment in education technology increased by 50 percent–from $7 billion to $16.1 billion–from 2019 to 2020.
Despite this growth, however, the pandemic has not been smooth sailing for schools and online education providers. The sharp increase in demand for distance learning in such a short period of time has meant staff and students have had to adapt quickly to meet the rising demand and ensure the systems in place would be able to cope. However, just as technology has supported students during the pandemic, it has also helped those providing the resources.
Adapting to the ever-changing Covid-19 situation
Learning management systems (LMS) have enabled many education providers to not only meet the increased demand for home learning from students, but also enhance their offering. Many schools, universities, and online tutoring services have found that while their student numbers have increased, so too has the diversity of students’ learning requirements–for instance, demand for a greater variety of courses, at different levels or different subjects, or the need for online assessment and monitoring of student progress.
When schools closed, many began to use an LMS through which they could set student tasks, receive work submissions, provide feedback, and live-stream lessons, which were then available to be watched at a later date if a student could not attend a class or simply wanted to revisit it. This is great for helping students reinforce their understanding of a topic. Critically, it enables teachers to monitor student attendance and keep track of their progress, helping to make sure learners are keeping to their timetables and engaging with the subject matter. With the majority of schools having to switch rapidly to online instruction, in many cases, their initial learning offering was not as thorough, so students had more independent studying time. However, this has brought unique benefits in helping students develop their independent thinking skills and become less reliant on teacher instruction.
As Covid-19 continues to throw curveballs at educators, LMSs enable schools to flexibly meet demand, whether that means adding more students to the platform or scheduling new lessons and tests online. The numerous different strands of an LMS can provide educators with more freedom and time to deliver personalized learning support for students, as they are able to plan and schedule specific content more efficiently, giving them additional time to offer individual support.
Reimagining the education experience online
During Covid-19, we have seen that education doesn’t have to stop just because schools are closed, and that traditional teaching approaches are not always conducive to nurturing well-rounded, independent thinkers. Online learning has presented students and educators alike with the opportunity to reimagine what education could– and ought to–look like in order to provide the best teaching and learning experience for students.
As any educator will tell you, each student is different. Some students will be much quicker to pick up a new math theory, for example, while others might need more time and direction from the teacher to help their understanding. Some students, such as those with behavioral or medical challenges, might be better able to concentrate on their studies outside of typical school day hours, and without the distractions that come with being in class with their peers. In these scenarios, online learning can be a powerful alternative tool for engaging with students and making the learning experience fun.
With LMSs, teachers have greater freedom to create personalized lessons based on individual student needs. If a student is particularly advanced in a subject area, teachers can assign more complex tasks for that student in the online learning platform so that they can progress their learning. At the same time, students who are struggling can work on a different lesson plan. By using an LMS in this way, class time becomes more efficient as students work at their own pace and levels. The most effective online learning platforms will provide live updates on students’ work and facilitate real-time communication between students and teachers, enabling teachers to monitor each learner’s progress while helping the whole class stay connected.
One of the greatest benefits of online learning is the flexibility it provides for exploring different teaching methods. Take, for instance, flipped classroom learning, which encourages more independent student-led working. This teaching strategy involves sharing learning materials and setting tasks for students to complete ahead of the class on the LMS, freeing up the lesson time for group discussion and collaboration. Students get to take ownership of their learning and improve their critical thinking and communication skills as they share their answers with the teacher and classmates.
With remote learning seemingly here to stay, online learning platforms such as LMSs have become a key ingredient for effective teaching and learning throughout the pandemic. Face-to-face instruction, of course, remains a valuable part of the education experience, yet this period has also shown how learning in a virtual environment can bring unique benefits and provide a more accessible, engaging, and inclusive option for students that thrive with alternative methods of learning.
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