Studies suggest that online high school classes increase retention of information and take less time.
The COVID-19 has led to the shutting of all schools across the globe. Globally, over 1.2 billion learners are out of the classroom. Consequently, education has changed dramatically, with the notable rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
Studies suggest that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and take less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have triggered might be here to stay.
While nations are at various points in their COVID-19 infection rates, worldwide, there are currently more than 1.2 billion students in 186 countries affected by school closures due to the pandemic. In Denmark, learners up to the age of 11 are returning to nurseries and schools after initially closing on 12 March, but in South, Korea learners are responding to roll calls from their teachers online.
With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, some are wondering whether the adoption of online high school classes will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would affect the global education market.
Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology, with worldwide EdTech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019. The overall market for online education projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025. Whether it is language apps, online tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant increase in usage since COVID-19.
The Challenges of Online School
There are, however, problems to overcome. Some learners without reliable internet access and technology struggle to participate in digital learning; this gap is seen across states and between income brackets within countries. For instance, while 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, only 34% in Indonesia do, according to OECD data.
In America, there is a substantial gap between those from privileged and disadvantaged backgrounds: while almost all 15-year-olds from a privileged background said they had a computer to work on, nearly 25% of those from underprivileged backgrounds did not. While some schools and governments have been providing digital equipment to learners in need, like in New South Wales, Australia, many are still worried that the pandemic will widen the digital divide.
Is learning Online as Effective?
The effectiveness of online high school classes differs amongst age groups.
For those who do have access to the correct technology, there is evidence that learning online can be exceedingly effective in many ways. Some research shows that, on average, learners retain 25-60% more material when studying online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This is mostly due to the learners being able to learn faster online; e-learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because learners can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they select.
However, the effectiveness of online learning differs amongst age groups. The general consensus on kids, especially younger ones, is that a structured environment is required because children are easily distracted. To get the full advantage of online high school, there should be a concerted effort to offer this structure and go beyond replicating a physical class/lecture through video capabilities, instead, using a range of collaboration tools and engagement methods that promote “inclusion, personalization, and intelligence,” according to Dowson Tong, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent and President of its Cloud and Smart Industries Group.
Since research has shown that students extensively use their senses to learn, making learning fun and effective through the use of technology is vital, according to BYJU’s Mrinal Mohit. “Over a period, we have observed that clever integration of games has demonstrated higher engagement and increased motivation towards learning, especially among younger learners, making them truly fall in love with learning,” he says.
A Changing Education Imperative
This pandemic has hugely disrupted an education system that many assert was already losing its significance. In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, scholar Yuval Noah Harari outlines how schools continue to focus on traditional academic skills and conditioning learning, instead of skills like critical thinking and adaptability, which will be more significant for success in the future. Could the move to online school learning be the catalyst to create a new, more effective method of educating learners? While some worry that the swift nature of the transition online may have hindered this goal, others plan to make e-learning part of their ‘new normal’ after experiencing the benefits first-hand.
The Significance of Disseminating Knowledge is Highlighted through COVID-19
Major global events are often an inflection point for rapid innovation – a clear example is the rise of e-commerce post-SARS. While we have not seen whether this will apply to classes online high school post-COVID-19, it is one of the few sectors where investment has not dried up. What has been made clear through this pandemic is the importance of disseminating knowledge across borders, organizations, and all parts of society. If virtual learning technology can play a role here, it is incumbent upon all of us to discover its full potential.
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