A2Z discussion blog
Alright Educators, Listen Up!
It's time to go digital
In this post, Ross Cheeseright shares his opinions on education & training in an increasingly digital world and the importance of getting it right.
Education during Covid and beyond
I’m a father. My daughter is 10 and my son is 15 years old. Over the past 9 months, we’ve seen the pandemic cause huge levels of disruption. The kids weren’t able to go to school for months. Then the summer holidays hit!
As a single father and full-time employee – it was a very challenging time to take their education into my hands and ensure that they were getting the most out of their learning (which I’m sure they weren’t, by the way.)
And this wasn’t just a problem faced by me, obviously. The United Nations Policy Brief Education during COVID-19 and beyond says the following:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries”
During that time, schools and educators all over the country faced an enormous challenge. In fact, The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that this was
“A quintessential adaptive and transformative challenge, one for which there is no pre-configured playbook.”
During the pandemic, educators and schools had a wide range of responses – some were good, but many were cobbled together responses that didn’t make the most out of the modern technology that’s available out there.
There are some fantastic resources, such as Google Classroom and Zoom which were an effective band aid – but many of the school’s responses lacked that all-important element of education – the two-way conversation that supports the learning.
Now, I will caveat this by saying: I know that we were all taken by surprise by this. But we’ve had plenty of time now to prepare for the future – be that a second wave of COVID or another crisis.
The UN speaks about the importance of education and its role in the wider society saying,
“Education is not only a fundamental human right. It’s an enabling right with direct impact on the realization of all other human rights.”
It’s our duty as a society to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to provide a learning environment that will support the development of our young minds.
And this doesn’t just apply to the young minds like my kids, either – the face-to-face training market is getting a hammering across the board. Thinking about transforming to a digital model is just good business sense.
Going forward, rather than providing work to simply ‘keep up the habit’ of learning, or making the materials available – it’s important to find a way for learners to thrive – even in cases where face-to-face learning isn’t possible.
Build Resilient Education Systems
For a long time now, we’ve been pushing the ‘cloud envelope’. It’s no secret that I’m writing this from the perspective of a cloud services consultancy – but it works! The centralisation of resources in a single ‘silo’ is something that businesses have known was risky for a long time.
One of the reasons that there has been a big shift towards that cloud is because it allows business to “work from anywhere, manage from everywhere.”
This is an ethos that educators need to adopt. The technology is there to help develop resilience. Especially in times like these where schools need to be closed down – for whatever reason, not just the pandemic.
Take a leaf out of the LMS playbook
Learning Management Systems (LMS) can be found all over the internet. It’s possible to create your own in a few clicks. They allow people to take on independent learning. All the material is laid out for the student and as they progress through, it remembers where in the process they are. It then allows them to go back and review past material and review their progress.
Online Training Platforms
Here at A2Z, we use online training platforms to train clients all the time. Our system of choice is obviously Zoho ShowTime and that’s what I’ll speak about today as it’s what I’m personally experienced in, but there are plenty of options out there.
Zoho ShowTime allows us to deliver live ‘classroom style’ training sessions to our audience. We can run polls during the session, there is a special area for questions from the class, and there is also a chat that attendees can use. All the class materials can be shared and downloaded in the session and it’s possible to test the class on their understanding through the use of tests and quizzes.
Benefits of Showtime
- The software has a built-in whiteboard so that you can explain more complex topics with visuals to support your message.
- Beyond that, it’s also possible to record these sessions so that they can be delivered on demand. This way users can learn in their own time.
- With just a few clicks, a microphone and a webcam and there could have been little-to-no disruption of classroom sessions at all.
The Digital Divide
It wouldn’t be fair to share this opinion without touching on some of the challenges and downsides. Focusing on digitising these materials doesn’t take into account those learners who do not have readily available access to technology.
Vulnerable people that can’t afford the technology would need to be supported by the Government with grants or devices for the purposes of getting the most out of these cloud-based features.
Furthermore, people who live in remote places or have a poor internet connection might not be able to benefit as much through ‘live’ classroom sessions either.
However, it’s worth noting that any device with a web browser will be able to access this technology thanks to it being in the cloud. Additionally, services like Starlink will improve connectivity in remote places around the world.
Education is a fundamental right and training is vital for businesses. A lot more can be done to ensure the resilience of education and training sectors.
Through the implementation of LMS and Online Training platforms, it would be possible for educators and training organisations to be less reliant on face-to-face training. It would also have the side-effect of supporting learning for students during normal times by giving them access to training material for revision and allowing parents greater transparency over their progress and learning.
Creating strategies that digitise our learning materials and hosting them in the cloud will help to ensure that educational and training facilities aren’t keeping all their eggs in one basket.
Zoho Premium Partner
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