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The Rise of Online and Digital Learning and What it Means for the Future

by Eddie Rayner

by Ozhan Toktas, Managing Director at Pearson Middle East and Africa

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in early 2020, online or virtual learning has become the cornerstone of modern education. Led by the nationwide lockdowns, school closures, increased internet penetration and a growing thirst for knowledge and new skills, people around the world have started to realise that there is a scope for constructive, screen-based learning at home and in academic institutions, with rapid strides having been made by shifting to digital platforms & e-learning solutions.

Going forward, as we await a gradual transition back to normal with the worldwide vaccination drive in full gear, there is one thing that we all need to realise: Not everything will be back to normal as before. Speaking from the education sector’s perspective, the recently conducted Pearson Global Learner Survey 2020, which is the voice of millions of learners across the globe, reveals that there is no returning to a pre-Covid education world. 88% of the people, globally, believe that online or virtual learning will become a permanent part of education at all levels and there is a need for schools, institutions, and education providers to deliver an effective and seamless digital experience for the learners. Building on this understanding, one can say that digital learning is definitely here to stay and below are some of the ways in which it might transform the learning experiences of individuals in the near future.

  • Focus will be on digital transformation rather than digitisation
    Over the past year, we have seen teachers delivering lectures online via Zoom, Teams etc., and providing study material through e-mails and digital apps and platforms. While this shift has offered many opportunities to teach differently, encouraged self-learning and provided students with an opportunity to learn from diverse resources, it must be understood that giving online lectures or converting documents into PDFs is digitisation but not, technically, digital transformation.

    In order to imagine a robust and forward-thinking education model for the future, it is critical to leverage frontier technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, which has an ability to transform the learning experience by transcending geographical boundaries, helping learners customise their learning as per their needs, offering personalized and rich content through animation-based lessons and maximizing student success by identifying their weak spots, giving remediation and incorporating them with in-demand job skills for the future. For example, platforms like Pearson E-Text offer a more interactive learning experience, anywhere-anytime access to digital texts, resources, embedded media and/or assessments, shared notes, and search functionality to enable a seamless learning experience for students and teachers.

88% of the people, globally, believe that online or virtual learning will become a permanent part of education

  • Bite-sized learning to become the new norm
    The digital age has brought with it a decline in attention spans and an increase in screen fatigue. Our brains have become bombarded with distracting alerts and notifications all day and, as a result, we are physically unable to concentrate and process large amounts of information. In order to approach such a problem in the classroom, we must look at embracing bite-sized or nano learning, which involves providing students with information in smaller amounts, over a shorter period of time.

    Learning in short bursts is proven to increase one’s ability to take in and retain information. By providing learners with small, ‘pellet’ like bits of information, through interactive videos, apps, podcastsetc., educators are much more likely to increase their productivity, capture their attention and aid their ability to learn.

Learning in short bursts is proven to increase one’s ability to take in and retain information

  • Remote proctoring to become the future of virtual assessments
    With online classes also comes the need for online assessments and recently there have been multiple debates by universities on the future of examination and evaluation – whether they can be conducted online or not. Amidst these challenging times and an already delayed academic year, the use of online remote proctoring platforms, a mechanism that allows students to take tests from home, and ensuring their authenticity by eliminating the chances of cheating or other malpractices, can be a practical solution to enable institutions to administer exams online without compromising on the integrity of the process.

    Apart from this, gone are the days where the only assessment paths to check for understanding were boring and tedious pen and paper tests. One area that is gaining a lot of traction is the virtual or digital assessment space, which is a mechanism that helps learners assess their exam readiness and streamline their preparation strategy by providing a real time, personalised exam experience.

We are now looking at a world where nothing will be the same as before. Digital learning platforms that were once seen as a supplement to traditional education infrastructure are now becoming mainstream in the post-Covid era. Given these new circumstances, the purpose of Pearson seems more relevant than ever before as we get ready to enter a new era as the world’s pre-eminent and digital first company, focused on spearheading the rise in online and digital learning, addressing the workforce skills gap, and meeting the growing demand for dependable accreditation and certification. Naturally, these are exciting times and the long-term impact seems to be on a positive edge, resulting in new and innovative ways of learning, bridging the digital divide, and acting as a catalyst for innovation and digitisation in education systems around the globe.