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With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, educational institutions faced unprecedented challenges and operational uncertainty as the world went into lockdown. Many institutions quickly realized that the closures initially expected to last several weeks would be much longer than anticipated, so many adopted innovative technology solutions to continue to benefit students. Here are three examples of the various technologies that educational institutions use to continue their successful operations:
1. Project Management Software
In the early days of the epidemic, many educational institutions began to use Lark, Project management software and collaboration suite based in Singapore. Lark is billed as a one-stop shop for teachers and students, offering unlimited video conferencing, automatic translation capabilities, smart calendar scheduling, and real-time co-editing of project work. This not only enables students to access educational resources, but also reduces the lengthy process for educators. Dr. Amjad, a professor at the University of Jordan, explained that Lark has revolutionized his teaching during the pandemic.Skylark gave him the ability to “reach and touch” [his] Students are more productive and effective through chat groups, video conferencing, polling, and file sharing. “
Other school boards and higher education institutions use Google Suite to reach students. Chicago Public Schools provided Chromebooks to more than 300,000 students in late 2019 and used the tool during the pandemic. Google Suite includes collaboration tools such as Google Drive, Google Meet, and Google Spreadsheets, which allow students and teachers to collaborate on projects at the same time. Ronald Carroll, instructional technology manager for the Chicago Public Schools District, stressed that Chromebooks help “create a more open and collaborative workspace for teachers and students.”
Related: The role of edtech companies in supporting the quality of education in remote areas
2. Educational Broadcasting
With schools closing in California in early 2020, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has partnered with local PBS stations to provide educational programming over three wireless broadcasts. These broadcasts cover 700 square miles in the greater Los Angeles area, providing accessible education to more than 700,000 students. These programs are aimed at students from kindergarten through 12th grade and take place at various times of the day and night.
50% of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District do not have access to a personalized computer or tablet, and 25% of households do not have access to the Internet at home. By providing over-the-air broadcasting, LAUSD is able to bridge this digital divide and successfully provide accessible education to all students.
3. Pre-recorded audio and video learning
ComIT, a nonprofit charitable organization that I created in 2016 to offer micro-courses on technical training, also transitioned to online learning at the start of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, our three-month course of free technical training for disadvantaged adult students was offered face-to-face.
ComIT experienced similar challenges to LAUSD, as many students lacked reliable internet connections or insufficient bandwidth to watch live or recorded video. Many live in remote areas or Canadian Aboriginal reserves, where strong internet connections are often unavailable. To bridge this digital divide, ComIT began recording each lesson and then distributing the recordings to all students. Students can dial in lectures from their phones and watch the recorded version where they have a better connection. We also started offering content and asynchronous ways to communicate with teachers, teaching assistants, and other classmates.
Related: 90% of students prefer online education to offline mode for better learning
While these revolutionary technologies have been successfully used to connect individuals over the past two years, many users experience social isolation due to a lack of face-to-face connection. This social isolation has led to many mental health challenges, leading many institutions to return to full-time face-to-face learning. Innovative technological features can be used to bridge this social gap, but must be used correctly to be effective.
As the world slowly emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic, the future of online learning and the technologies that make it possible remain uncertain. Many educational institutions have resumed face-to-face instruction to optimize learning, while others have adopted a hybrid model. For example, professors at the University of Jordan claim that their students find it easier to communicate on Lark and continue to use the software even after returning to face-to-face learning. The university strongly supports that “traditional offline learning and e-learning can go hand in hand”.
ComIT also continues to use a combination of face-to-face and online learning. We believe that the face-to-face approach is useful for building relationships, especially for those who need extra guidance. We believe that distance learning offers possibilities for people who would otherwise not be able to get an education, but must use the right tools to make the most of the online learning experience.
For students who do have access to proper technology and a strong internet connection, research shows Online learning has higher retention rates And takes less time than traditional face-to-face learning. According to some recent studies, students retain 25 to 60 percent of their online learning materials, compared to only 8 to 10 percent in the classroom.
Whatever the future holds, the technological adjustments that have taken place over the past two years are monumental, proving that educational institutions of all types can adapt and explore creative solutions to continue learning.
Related: Enriching the Educational Experience in a Blended Classroom Environment