Covid-19: Impacts on the Educational Sector

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, as the world economy continues to stagnate with businesses shutting down and people confined into their homes, the impact on the education sector has led to the abrupt closure of learning institutions across the world leaving them in a tight spot. All universities across the world manage complex risk assessment and mitigation processes but none had placed ‘global pandemic’ high on their risk register.

This sudden change in circumstances has affected students and educators alike, leaving them with little option but to switch to remote learning. While some have adjusted to the new form of education, others are still struggling to get the hang of it. However, the longevity of the crisis has left no choice for educators than to rethink their strategy from a completely new perspective.

Managing the learning curve, reaching out to every student, and creating a safe remote learning environment are some of the challenges at hand for the institutions. In addition, with educational institutes facing financial difficulties — it will take a while to tide over to normalcy.

Nevertheless, one cannot disregard how digital transformation is acting as a virtual anchor and foothold between the desks and the board. Digital transformation in education has been bridging the gap between the two by facilitating remote learning, irrespective of the demographic boundaries and distances.

Traditionally, implementing a change in any organization takes months or even years to come into force. Everything is easy in the physical environment — conference room meetings for communication, seminars & workshops for learning, and guest lectures for motivation but it is a challenge when the same needs to be replicated online. But, surprisingly the tables have turned around in the wake of COVID-19 as these changes are being implemented at super-sonic speed in few institutions like SIMS. It is the test of an institution’s alertness and the zeal to respond to the changing dynamics that makes it to rethink, revaluate, amend and adapt the fundamental approach and make efforts to go out with the old and come in with the new. In the changing dynamics, all universities and educational institutions need to set a foundation for the new normal now, as distant setups become a reality. The IT departments of the institutes need to look for the best video communication applications, guidelines & protocols around communication, availability of cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Calendar applications for scheduling meetings etc.

Education Technology (EdTech) sector is also witnessing a staggering upthrust in demand across the globe, as a consequence. The pandemic has played a vital role in making the world and India in particular; leapfrog its education sector onto online platforms. It has also propelled new solutions in the form of learning consortiums that encompasses governments, universities, schools, academia and technology solution providers come jointly in conjunction with each other to design solutions for the students in the education sector. It can be a tend-setter for future of education.

Even as digital education works effectively as an interim arrangement to ensure an uninterrupted flow of education for three to four months while keeping children, young adults and adults safe from the risk of being infected, its position as a bankable substitute to a near-obsolete education system, in the long run, has been reinforced. COVID-19 has become a catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to search for ingenious solutions in a relatively short period. Both the teacher and the student have embraced technology platforms be it Microsoft Teams, Google classrooms or other platforms for online learning. The chat forums, online meetings and discussion boards simulate and replicate a classroom environment where students can actively participate and engage in learning. This coupled and accompanied with mails, uploading & downloading videos, tests & assignments will create a new skill set that will be much in demand in the times to come.

All this brings us to speculate and quiz if the space for E-learning carved out by an unavoidable lockdown pave way for a long-overdue overhaul of the education system in India. Only time will tell.

Remote learning may seem as a silver lining in the current scenario as it promotes digitalization. But before e-learning and remote learning becomes the new normal for the education sector in India, it has many challenges to tide over – availability of uninterrupted power and non-ubiquitous internet connectivity, a change in people’s mindsets, and an overhaul of curriculums, to name a few. In addition, one can’t overlook that one to one interaction cannot exhaustively be replaced via the impersonalized and patchy nature of remote learning.

We are still in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic. In many countries, it is yet to peak. It is already making us question ourselves on fundamental questions as what matters to us the most. I trust it will also have a big impact on how we learn and teach. We will witness considerable use of technology-enabled learning and teaching by Universities, Institutions, schools and even corporate world in the times to come.

To sum up E-learning has made inroads into mainstream education and progressive institutions like SIMS have been proactive and quick to Re-design, Digitise and Deliver technology-mediated learning and teaching and have made the much needed paradigm shift.