Since its first appearance, COVID-19 has put over a billion students out of school and the approaching new wave threatens to do it once more. This means that students will be taking online classes again. Interestingly, after the first lockdown, some students had never returned to face-to-face education. This tells us that a lot of people turned out to prefer online lessons to regular school. Let’s attempt to dissect why this could be the case and try to understand what this means for the future of teaching as a whole.
At first, the most prominent worry surrounding online education was its effectiveness. With time and comprehensive research, it was proven to be just as efficient as face-to-face education, and in many cases, even more so. This is because online lessons take way less time and give learners some agency over how they take lessons. Lesson recordings are also commonly available, which makes revision and retaking missed classes much easier. These factors make online lessons a better way of learning for most people. This raises the question of whether or not online lessons will become the leading method of education.
The pros don’t end there. Online lessons don’t take up any physical space so there’s no need for students to cram into classrooms. It’s not uncommon for poor neighborhoods especially to have small schools. With online lessons, students wouldn’t have to worry about personal space and schools wouldn’t be going over their capacity.
Due to the lockdowns of schools, both teachers and students had to equip themselves with digital literacy, which is a step toward laying the foundation required to switch to online education full time. In addition, various online learning platforms were already becoming more and more developed even before the pandemic began. Many of these platforms already had significant user bases and they have only been becoming more popular since 2020. This is a sign that full-time online teaching, or in the very least a hybrid system, might be possible.
Impact on Teachers
A teacher side change the industry had to adapt to was how much harder it was to keep the students’ attention. Teachers worldwide had to develop new strategies and change their style of teaching to be able to get through the screens and reach the students. Studies show that integrating games and interactive ways of teaching to the lessons was a popular method for this, which online learning programs are already known to do. Online lessons definitely played a hand in putting a spotlight on gamified education.
But with most things in life, there are negative ways online lessons have impacted the world of teaching as well. Not every student or teacher had the means to be able to partake in online lessons. Many households don’t have a stable internet connection or even working modern computers. This disadvantage is a crystal clear manifestation of people’s financial statuses. If online learning were to become more prominent it could, unfortunately, feed into the class divide all over the world.
Some teachers benefited from online teaching and learned how to better get through to the students but even so, large groups of both teachers and students had a hard time switching back to face-to-face teaching. If a hybrid system were to be put into action, these people would be getting thrown under the bus.
The takeaway is that while many students rejoiced at first due to not having to go to school, teachers had to work harder than ever to find new ways to teach, and it doesn’t look like online lessons’ effect on teaching as a whole will be stopping just yet.