A year-and-a-half ago, students were abruptly thrown into an online learning environment. Many schools around the world had not yet fully developed online learning platforms for their students, so the Covid pandemic took many off guard. While many schools and universities had online learning portals, there were rarely full classes conducted online, and certainly not for such an extended period as we saw. So one of the biggest questions to be posed to the education system is, will the future of learning be online?
Since humans have existed, teaching has happened face-to-face and in person. From parents teaching their children manners and right from wrong, to schools that teach a plethora of subjects from mathematics, to sciences and the arts. Only within the past two decades with the rise of high-speed internet has it been possible to engage in learning online, broadening our horizons. No longer do we need to learn from programs such as Rosetta Stone or take up foreign language classes in person, we can now learn at just the click of a button on our phones.
Online learning has been, and especially since the pandemic, will continue to be on the rise, but at what cost? Can the same standards be upheld and is it less effective teaching a group of teenagers who are in the comfort of their own homes? Some schools have been reluctant to take up online classes, even when there are no other options. There is a belief that if the same standard cannot be upheld then it should not be done. We are seeing some investing heavily in upgrading their facilities to allow for and make it safer for face-to-face classes. Meeting room booking systems that were once reserved for offices are now being installed in schools to keep track digitally of who are using rooms and when – very helpful for contact tracing. At the end of the day, however, it all depends on guidelines set out by the government.
While formal education may be more reluctant to transition into mostly online learning, the opposite is true of informal education. Open online courses such as Udemy and Skillshare have grown exponentially over the past few years as people look to increase their skill set and want to pick and choose exactly what they want to learn, unlike what they would experience with formal education. Many people looking for a career change or having previously graduated from university are choosing to take up online courses that are flexible and can be completed in their own time. These are just a few of the selling points that are drawing people towards online learning.
This may be a brief overview of the current state of education, formal and informal, but it certainly points to a more online-based future. While it can be argued that we as humans learn better face-to-face, the reach and broad variety of knowledge that is accessible online is something that in-person learning cannot compete with, but must embrace.