Looking at current data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seventy percent of the world’s student population (children and adults) has been impacted by COVID-19 related closures. Put another way, that’s 1.2 billion learners in 153 countries.
(Image courtesy of UNESCO)
This global pandemic and the sudden shift to online learning has the potential to alter the world of education as we know it. While there are clearly challenges with emergency online teaching, an opportunity exists for us to reimagine how education should be delivered. Before the threat of COVID-19, an upward tick in online learning was already taking shape. Program administrators operating in crisis mode may be unaware of the benefits of online learning within their reach. We examine more below.
One of the biggest objections from language school administrators who are new to online instruction is “We already have teachers. There is no way that a technology solution is better than our teachers.” Even when a program has its own teachers, technology can provide tools to make them more effective and allow them to focus their time on what matters. With appropriate technology-mediated tools, program administrators can easily gain insight into the individual progress of every learner, allowing them to personalize instruction.
Opportunity to Expand Volume of Learners
Live, virtual classes, allow instruction to be accomplished more effectively, efficiently while providing an opportunity to reach a larger volume of learners. When a program is fully online or partially online (blended or hybrid), the institution incurs fewer expenses related to building management or other physical upkeep. A recent New York Times article expounds on this noting online education could expand access while cutting costs, “shoring up revenues for universities in a way that is more recession-proof, policy-proof and pandemic-proof.”
Resolves Issues of Space and Time
The convenience of learners having the ability to study online at a time that’s best for them is worth repeating. Without the burden of classes that must start at a specific time, learners have the flexibility to learn at a time more suitable for them. With flexible class schedules, language schools are also able to appeal to a wider range of learners who might otherwise be turned off by a strict class schedule. Similar to program administrators offering flexible class times, online instruction offers the added benefit of learning at any place that’s convenient to the learner. A recent case study on the University of Maryland is a prime example of how online learning helps resolve logistical challenges. Learners are able to practice lessons on mobile devices (using Voxy) at their own convenience, eliminating the need to travel across campus.
Alleviate Social Isolation Caused By COVID19 Quarantines
COVID19- related quarantines can contribute to learner isolation. Our Chief Education Officer, Katie Nielson recommends building a sense of community among learners as a best practice for successful online language programs. Community building begins with learner engagement and the creation of a communication plan. Establishing an environment that fosters learning, promotion, and development is a clear way to help learners achieve their goals and build community. Afterall, community building generates trust, collaboration, and engagement which is essential to the success of any online English program. Learn more in this recent webinar on Best Practices for Virtual ESOL Teaching. With these pieces in places, community building can help learners to counteract feelings of social isolation.
Caters to Attention Spans
Let’s face it, learners do not want to be stuck for hours on end in a video conference style setting. Online instruction offers the added benefit of microlearning or information that is delivered in a short, easier to digest format. Microlearning is hyper-focused and offers the right amount of information in the right amount of time, to help learners achieve specific goals. Learners pay more attention when content is delivered in short, easy to digest chunks. Further, when content is personalized to specific learner needs, microlearning caters to short attention spans by delivering information in smaller, fun-sized pieces.
Increased Digital literacy
With the escalation of this pandemic, many novice learners new to online learning are hurled into the digital landscape without warning. However, another unexpected benefit of online learning is improved digital literacy. Digital literacy happens with continued practice and helping people who are unfamiliar with technology become better sharpens digital literacy. Watch this recent webinar on digital learning and digital literacy to learn more.