From Where We Sit

Education in the new reality

One day, we will go back to our pre-coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) lives, but it will take a while even after the discovery of a vaccine. As we try to bring back “normalcy” in our society, we sense that our way of living, working and learning will never be the same.

This forced schools to shift their courses to online learning and that has been very problematic. With this new reality, educators all over the world have an opportunity to re-think about how education is to be delivered to succeed.

Despite the technological advancements, educators still largely favor the traditional face-to-face approach. As technology becomes an integral part of our daily lives, it is hard to imagine that it will not have a dominant role in our education system. In emergent situations like the Covid-19 pandemic, educators must totally embrace educational technology and online learning.

What is online learning and what is not?

Online learning is described as an emerging approach where students access education anytime and anywhere using a range of technology tools either asynchronously or synchronously.

Many schools resort to emergency remote teaching by lecturing online via Zoom or MS Teams. This is essentially not online learning since students cannot learn at their own pace. Our school curriculum is simply not designed for online delivery and bring it online using web-conferencing platforms will not work over the long term.

Technology integration in schools

Understanding technology integration is important because schools tend to select technologies that are inappropriate or unfitted. Technology integration is the well-coordinated use of digital tools for problem-solving, deeper learning and understanding. It facilitates access to curriculum but is not the curriculum itself. Educators must guide learners in using technology as a tool for accessing and understanding educational content.
Successful technology integration in the classroom lies in understanding technology’s role in the classroom and placing our students — not the technology and the teacher — at the center of instruction. Technology is merely the vehicle that makes these things happen.

The need for a single digital learning platform

To succeed in online education, schools need to use a range of technologies, including a learning management system and content authoring tool. While it is tempting to use educational technology (ed-tech) tool out there, schools need to have a single digital platform that students can always visit to access content, tools, activities and assessments.

A learning management system (LMS) is a software application that provides the platform to manage all aspects of the learning process from content to assessments; while a content authoring tool is a software used to create content. These systems are quite expensive, difficult to implement, and unaffordable by smaller schools.

There are “free” LMS platforms that schools can use like the Google Classroom, but “free” is not true to its word as it misses a lot of the great things that paid LMS has to offer, such as gamification, microlearning and other engaging features.

When investing in an LMS, choose the authoring tools to allow educators to create interactive and engaging content. These will help educators spice up their usual teaching slides and videos by adding interactive elements, such as quizzes, multi-media or embed external resources.

Training teachers to successfully teach online

Many schools rush to move instruction online, leaving many educators unprepared and unfamiliar with online teaching. This is not an ideal, but educators must fly and reach for the sky.

Educators are doing their best in an extraordinary and endlessly changing situation, but their lack of training to successfully teach online has created a patchwork of quality and gaps in accessibility. The biggest challenges facing schools are the lack of financial resources and educators lack enough time for training to understand how to teach online.

Planning, designing and implementing an online course take time and the best training is
tailored to meet educators where they are and build on their knowledge.
Rethinking about assessments

Another challenge of online education is the teacher-students setup is no longer in the same room to collectively learn. In a virtual setting, most of learning time is driven by tasks that require a high level of self-direction.

In a traditional setting, countless policies and procedures put in place to maintain the integrity of assessments process, while in a virtual environment, things are very different. Teachers are not physically present to monitor their students when conducting activities and assessments. Now, everything is possible, and schools can never deliver assessments in the same way they have before.

Educators must rethink about assessments and start moving away from the multiple-choice exam design. Educators can instead prioritize longer, student-driven assignments and tasks, such as collaborative projects, online presentation, case studies or even blogging.

Effective assessments in a virtual environment require schools to map and choose the right technology to use for assessments.

Educators on the other hand should provide authentic assessments that mimic more real-world interactions and design assessments that measures actual learning outcomes.

Blended learning as the new normal in education

In the new reality, more classrooms will adopt and implement blended learning, which has emerged as a far more flexible model for learning. The use of education technology has led to the rise of this new approach.

Why is blended learning the future of education?

This is because it caters to the strengths and weaknesses of each student than traditional face-to-face approaches to education. Blended learning is beyond the barriers of space and time.

An important step in effective implementation of blended learning in schools is to choose the right digital learning platform (i.e. LMS). This will enable personalized learning for every student, allowing them to learn at their own pace, and access multiple content types so that they can choose the format that best helps them understand complex concepts.

By the time the world returns to “normal,” schools would have adapted to online learning, invested in digital learning platforms, and discovered how much more cost effective it can be than traditional education.

So, which do you prefer? Traditional or blended? Take your pick.

Jess Obaña is a Senior Managing Consultant of the Advisory Services Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 24 Partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to anton.ng@ph.gt.com or pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph

 

As published in The Manila Times, dated 28 October 2020