Excerpt: Let's take a look at some of the significant issues that the education sector has faced as a result of pandemics and online education, as well as how the edutech industry has responded and benefited from them in this article.
Read Time: 6 mins 30 secs
With the entrance of pandemics, schools and educational institutions have shut down all across the globe. Over 1.2 billion students were out of classrooms all over the globe. This made the education sector crumble down in various aspects. On many levels, the education sector was not completely ready for this. Though digitisation was happening complete digitisation was not very expected by the education sector all of a sudden. Learning and teaching took a complete turn with this online education system.
In this article let’s have a quick look at the major challenges that the education sector had to face and how the edutech industry responded and made benefit out of it.
Problems in Education Sector due to Pandemic
This online education system affected the students most. Since in most third-world countries like India having access to smartphones, laptops, and internet connection is not very predominant. Even though there might be a smartphone in every household but that belonged to the head of the family, accessing it became a problem and in absence of stable internet connections, making it difficult for students to go for their online classes. Hence as a result there was a huge amount of drop-outs.
- A mess around how to cope
Online Class During Pandemic: No one was ready for this change. Though teachers and staff are often trained to mitigate through emergencies, a sudden outbreak of COVID-19 was not one of them. There was no proper toolkit or instructions provided by the government or authorities either. Hence the teachers and students both were trying to navigate with this new method of learning. The entire coping up with this new system created chaos in the teaching-learning process.
- Absence of Mid-day Meal
Online Class During Pandemic: In a country like India, with 84 million people falling below the poverty line, many students go to school only for the sake of a mid-day meal. This is another reason for increased drop-out rates. Also, this led to many children going hungry.
- Absence of Peer Learning
Online Class During Pandemic: Without school and educational institutions, many students are missing majorly on peer learning. Most of the students learn a lot from their peers. Not only the studies but also other different things that are necessary for their growth. With online learning, peer learning went down where they would learn from each other.
- Parents as peer learners/co-teachers
Online Class During Pandemic: Since the pandemic and online classes came in, parents have now an added responsibility of either being their children’s peer-learners or co-teachers. Without the proper school system now parents have to keep a constant eye on their children and help them learn. In many cases where students' families are not well educated, the children have to suffer a lot because there is no one to guide or help them.
- Difficulty in Teaching
Online Class During Pandemic: Teaching also became a humongous task in online classes. Either the entire process is disturbed by bad network issues on either or both sides. The entire system of zoom classes allows students to do whatever they like by keeping their mic on mute and videos off. Communication is getting difficult, which is a very important part of imparting education. Teachers have no idea how to navigate through situations when students go out of the league. Even clearing doubts is becoming a tiring job for them.
- Missing out on teacher-student relations
Online Class During Pandemic: A teacher’s relationship with his/her student is not only at teaching and learning studies but also at times a much larger aspect. At times, teachers also counsel students or help students to battle through hard times and learn new things in life. But online education has killed it completely and this bond is getting enough space to get nurtured.
- Absence of tests and assignments
Online Class During Pandemic: In the initial phase of online education, tests and assignments were critical. Authorities were struggling with how to evaluate students. In many places, students were promoted without exams. Soon they came up with online examinations which had really good results but due to poor infrastructure, the evaluation was questioned. Assignments and exams through online methods were quite new for many, again adjusting to it became a problem. Though again now offline exams are back.
- Lack of resources
Online Class During Pandemic: The evident factor that was a major factor in online education was the lack of resources. Neither do they have proper online resources that are required for online education nor did they have the basic infrastructure that is required for the same. Also, there was no proper toolkit for the same as well.
- Unending Breaks and Unruly Behaviour
With online education, students went bonkers. They went on doing whatever they liked. Took innumerable breaks whenever they wanted by switching the mic and videos off. They also did things that they wouldn’t get a chance to do in offline classrooms from which we saw many memes online. The teachers were also in a mess since they didn’t know how to handle this.
The coronavirus pandemic is bringing to light something that most of us previously understood. Some schools have a plethora of resources to share with families and caregivers, while others have none. Some families had all the internet and devices that allowed students to do their classes properly, whereas some were struggling through.
How is the Edutech Industry Responding To These?
Many online learning platforms, like BYJU'S, a Bangalore-based educational technology and online tutoring corporation that was formed in 2011 and is currently the world's most valuable edtech company, are offering free access to their services in response to overwhelming demand. According to Mrinal Mohit, BYJU's Chief Operating Officer, since introducing free live classes on its Think and Learn app, the number of new students utilizing the program has increased by 200 percent.
Meanwhile, since mid-February, when the Chinese government ordered a quarter of a billion full-time students to resume their studies through online platforms, Tencent Classroom has been heavily used. With around 730,000, or 81 percent of K-12 students, attending classes via the Tencent K-12 Online School in Wuhan, this resulted in the largest "online movement" in educational history.
Other businesses are expanding their capacities to create a one-stop-shop for teachers and students. For example, Lark, a Singapore-based collaboration suite that began as an internal tool for ByteDance to meet its exponential growth, began offering teachers and students unlimited video conferencing time, auto-translation capabilities, and real-time co-editing of project work, and smart calendar scheduling, among other features. Lark increased its global server infrastructure and technical capabilities to assure dependable connectivity in a hurry and during a catastrophe.
According to DingTalk CEO Chen Hang, Alibaba's distance learning solution had to prepare for a similar influx: "To support large-scale remote work, the platform tapped Alibaba Cloud to deploy more than 100,000 new cloud servers in just two hours last month – setting a new record for rapid capacity expansion."
Some school districts are forging unusual collaborations, such as the one formed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and PBS SoCal/KCET to provide local educational broadcasts with several channels geared toward different ages and a variety of digital possibilities. Virtual learning is also supported by media companies such as the BBC; Bitesize Daily, which debuted on April 20, offers 14 weeks of curriculum-based learning for children across the UK, with celebrities such as Manchester City footballer Sergio Aguero teaching some of the content.
Major world crises are frequently a tipping moment for rapid innovation, as evidenced by the rise of e-commerce following SARS. While we don't know if this will apply to e-learning after COVID-19, it is one of the few areas where investment hasn't dried up. The necessity of distributing knowledge across borders, companies, and all aspects of society has been highlighted by this pandemic. If online learning technology has a role to play here, it is incumbent on all of us to fully exploit it.