Immediately after the pandemic
During the pandemic, most countries around the world closed schools, colleges and universities, causing disruption to families, teachers and students’ lives. As teaching moved online, education became unavailable to poorer families because of limited access to computers and high-speed internet. Some teachers and students experienced lost or disrupted services during particular times of the day due to high demand, while others experienced inadequate internet connections in rural areas. Poor families could not afford connections. Children with internet access required supervision by working parents, resulting in lower work productivity and increased stress for parents. Teachers also struggled to create engaging classes because of their lack of experience using online teaching tools. This affected children as their schooling environment changed.
Toward a post-COVID-19 society
The challenges of online education quickly became apparent with younger students. They were unable to socialise with classmates, learn from each other and enjoy more engaging classes with less screen time. However, the biggest downside is that education for some poorer children was temporarily frozen due to a lack of equipment and internet access. Furthermore, specialised education for individuals such as autistic students was also unavailable. Gradually, new online communication tools and support systems for children and the elderly have been introduced. Online tutorials for adults who want to learn new skills, such as cutting hair, became popular. As the education sector has been historically conservative and resistant to change, online learning has removed this barrier. This has led to people questioning the role of teachers and educational institutions.
Advanced digital learning
New digital learning tools that use augmented and virtual reality technology will start to emerge, meaning that less parental supervision is needed. These tools will be able to mimic existing educational environments, help children to focus and allow a form of social interaction. By recognising the benefits of these tools, schools and universities will require this equipment as part of their syllabus. Teachers roles will change as they will be divided into more specialised groups, e.g. ‘Lecturer’, ‘Q&A to students’, ‘Planner’, ‘Advisor’.
Online education will become more personalised, diversified and distributed from a variety of sources to support individuals. Students will be able to choose how much time they spend on various subjects based on their aptitude. They will be able to personalise the length of their education. Google has already launched a Career Certificate that can help people to acquire the right skills and relevant employment in just six months. Famous universities that have attracted students from all over the world will have to adapt their service to stay on top. However, the meaning of a qualification and the trust in online certifications will become another challenge to solve.
Educational disparity in the digital age
As pupils will require expensive technology to learn efficiently at home, there will be a divide between those who have access to technology and those who do not. To reduce the education gap, new ‘learning hubs’ providing access to technology for digital learning will address the socially excluded, but as a paid subscription service. Governments will provide equipment, internet connection and support for the poorest families to ensure equality.
The digital literacy gap in society will increase because of learning flexibility. Privileged students will be able to diverge from school programmes and underprivileged students will continue with traditional programmes and traditional ways of learning. The increase of online learning allows students and children to learn at a flexible pace. Digital education giants will emerge. Privileged adults/children will attend many schools at the same time, picking a favourite specialist class from each, whereas poorer children will be limited to one less advanced traditional school.