Over the past few months, the eLearning market has undergone a massive boom. As COVID-19, or coronavirus, has spread across the world, both institutions and individuals have reached for their laptops in an attempt to stay connected and keep learning. We have all learned a huge amount in a very short space of time, about what works and what doesn’t, and what the access requirements of eLearning programs are in a wider context. However, as the dust settles, what are the ramifications for online learning moving forward? As some institutions reopen their doors, we are seeing many more continuing to use online platforms for the foreseeable future. Online learning is certainly here to stay, and its future looks more interesting than ever.
One of the main ramifications of eLearning is that students are able to access it from across the world. We have seen this for years, with online courses from institutions such as MIT and Suffolk Online being accessed from countries outside the United States. However, as these courses become more profligate, this effect will only continue to grow. Is this the beginning of a global democratization of education? Of course, political factors and censorship in certain countries will continue to place barriers in the way of some communities, but the growing prevalence of online courses cannot be ignored.
Changing, Accessible Universities
Universities have been hit hard by the pandemic, and many have shifted their lectures to online learning for the coming academic year. Whilst there are some subjects for which this is less feasible, particularly practical sciences where physical experimentation in a lab is vital, for others, it has worked well. After all, what is the real difference between attending a lecture in a hall, or tuning into one on Zoom? The only real answer is accessibility. Online webinars can be better options for people with various disabilities, who may have found it hard to access the physical lecture halls of the past. In the future, there will be no excuses for institutions to not accommodate these needs. Covid-19 has simply proved that it is possible.
For all its positive ramifications, there are some elements of online learning that will need to be closely monitored as we move into the future. There have already been studies showing that affluent students in high schools attended a higher number of online study sessions as the lockdown progressed, and internet poverty is a problem that needs to be addressed. eLearning programs must continue to find ways to include individual teacher-student feedback to aid pupils’ development. Safety is also an issue, as institutions rush to create training modules for their educators to behave responsibly online just as they would in classrooms. At the moment, given the incredibly sudden switch to e-learning, many of these programs and guidelines risk becoming obsolete almost as soon as they are issued. Technology moves at a startling pace, and e-learning must move with it in order to stay relevant, useful, and safe for students to use.
Featured Image: Julia M Cameron, Pexels.