It’s no exaggeration to say that 2020 and 2021 were years unlike any others in living memory. But that holds doubly true for anyone connected with the education sector, be that as a student, an educator or a parent. 2021 was all about the “new normal” and trying to get on with things and make up for lost time in a world of lateral flow tests, facemasks and social distancing, with the threat of increased restrictions ever present.
In 2022 we are beyond that, but the challenges are no less daunting.
Flexible hybrid learning is now an expectation
Most educational institutes were geared up for elearning to a certain degree before the world ground to a halt. Nevertheless, the rush to go from that to 100 percent online learning in 2020 inevitably exposed shortcomings in terms of quality, consistency, equitable access and other areas.
In short, both students and educators found that while online learning brings convenience, there are some areas in which face to face tuition can’t be beaten. The real takeaway, though, is that 2022’s students have seen what is possible and there is an expectation that digital materials and resources will be an intrinsic part of their courses.
Improving the quality of online courses
Of all those potential shortcomings we mentioned, quality is both the most fundamental and the hardest to address. Students and potential students demand online courses that are designed and delivered to the highest standards. This is a greater challenge for some establishments than for others.
Those leading the way in e-learning already have the people, technology and processes in place for developing high quality online courses and delivering them effectively. Others had to jump in with both feet in 2020, learning what they were doing on the fly. For them to play catch up means getting the right infrastructure in place, and that in turn depends to a large extent on the financial resources that are available.
It’s an area where universities and colleges can’t afford to fall short. If educational content is not adequately adapted to online learning, the impact on student engagement, results and the faculty’s reputation will be profound. After all, institutional brand reputation is now as much dictated by online factors and learning components as it is by what happens on campus.
Knowledge-based versus skills-based learning
It’s almost comforting to see that despite all the upheaval, some debates that have been raging since long before 2020 continue to dominate the agenda. The circumstances of the past two years have inevitably seen a shift back towards traditional knowledge-based learning. After all, there’s a limit to how hands-on you can get through e-learning.
This year, educators will be under pressure and scrutiny to redress the balance between traditional knowledge-based learning and skills-based tuition. There will always be students looking more towards one or the other, and a one size fits all approach is doomed to fail. It is down to educational establishments to provide the flexibility to meet everybody’s demands.