How about attending school or college via Zoom for a whole year? It might have been a dream in the past. Today it’s the ‘new normal’ and those who dreamt the dream are visionaries. As few classes go back to classrooms, the new opening created by Covid-19 in internationalizing education is getting wider.
EdTech has been around for years now. “Education and the Internet must go hand in hand”. The CEO of Cisco Systems spoke so about E-Learning in 1999 in one of his keynote addresses. He called it the ‘next big wave’. The cynics were winning the argument until recently. The pandemic though has started to turn the wheel now.
Prior to the pandemic, Technology in Education or EdTech for short was seen to be used in learning and teaching either as overkill or cosmetic. There were of course a few exceptions to it where the balancing act was just about right. What the pandemic has done to the education sector is it has made it turn around quickly. In the last academic year, the lion’s share of learning happened through smartphones, worldwide. It was never the case with the education sector which is an elephant when it comes to turning around a new path.
As children receive their grades and find their places at A-levels, schools and academies must evaluate the effectiveness of their learning and teaching methods and learning support systems from the past year. There are challenges abound that are undeniable. The schools and teachers are most aware of the challenges as they go back to their drawing boards to draw out their technology-dependent learning and teaching strategies. With discussions on ‘good practices in E-learning’ gaining momentum, baby steps might have already been taken in finding what really works.
In a larger context, other issues are playing their parts in the matter. Even though the number of reported Covid-19 cases have relatively declined, words of caution are still in the air. The post-Brexit dynamics have changed the student enrolment patterns as well, in the UK. In fact, according to UCAS data, the number of applications received from within the EU is down by 40% in 2021. The number of total applications though is still up by 11% as there is a large increase among older applicants coming from outside of the EU, further underlining the thought on internationalisation. These are collective figures and show data on all applications made. The actual enrolment data might be different and is due for publication by the Higher Education Statistics Agency in January 2022.
And then there is this ongoing, all-important ‘value-for-money’ question on university fees.
In such times can unique ways be found in making learning or E-learning truly impactful and more effective for all? Can this be a launch-pad moment in education?
Before we get too optimistic, it’s vital to establish good practices in online learning and teaching.
Creating clear learning objectives, simulating real-world applications, creating a sense of presence, engaging students, and most of all giving prompt feedback during and after learning are important components required for creating an electrifying e-learning environment.
Amid the hue and cry, one must not forget the fact that it’s students who are focal points in all this and they have time and again highlighted the values of personal feedback and gaining more support in achieving their goals, as high points in their learning experience. While E-learning is here to stay, offering ‘face-to-face learning support’ embedding such values, alongside, can go a long way.
As more and more universities offer their MBAs, MSCs, and other programmes in virtual classrooms using state-of-the-art technologies, why can’t students enrol for blended programmes from different countries? After all, an American MBA will still work through a virtual setup. The good news is that the doors are now open for internationalisation. Global learning can help UK students explore more options. The other side of the coin is more and more students from other parts of the world would enrol and attend our programmes, virtually, if the support mentioned above is on offer.
“We have a penchant for excellence with eagle-eyed precision. But that might just not do the job for us now. We should use precision in understanding the needs of students and in offering the much-vaunted learning support within the e-learning zone. The ‘Academic Surgery’ model that we have conceived does just that and will drive ‘learner-led learning using creative and unique methods’” says Ram Kallapiran, Director of UKHE Consultants which is an Essex based start-up Education consultancy firm.
They have plans to offer learning support and the much-valued face-to-face support for a plethora of national and international programmes in addition to the academic quality assurance services they offer. For example, ‘Rise where Niagara Falls’ reads one of the updates on their website www.ukheconsultants.co.uk with details on bursaries and scholarships.
The word global village is as old as a village. The thing is it might just be gaining traction in the new normal as students stand to gain more from the spoils of internationalisation.