For years many tech companies have been trying to introduce e-learning into mainstream education. While it has gained some traction, especially with adults trying to acquire new skills on the likes of Coursera and Udemy or deepen their knowledge of a topic on Masterclass, or even obtain a nano degree on Udacity, it was not as wide spread among children. Some schools both state owned and private, as well as universities use tech tools to send homework and reports, or introduced blended learning. However, online learning was not as widespread.
Due to the recent outbreak of coronavirus and the recent state of lockdowns reached around the world, online learning or e-learning is gaining more and more traction. It has become the only viable solution to continue teaching undisrupted. Could the pandemic be the catalyst for the integration of e-learning in school systems? And when things hopefully return back to normal, what will e-learning look like?
E-learning: Gains Traction
Rola Badkook, the CEO of Shorfaa sees that is a big shift in self development, because many people have more time now. And as a result of lockdowns and worldwide quarantines knowledge seekers have no option, but to look online. “There is an increased demand for online learning, self development, and self exploration. During this unprecedented time people are looking to discover their interests, tap into a new hobby, engage in a self exploratory journey or simply develop their career through online learning. Many had these courses in their list but didn’t have the time. Now one of the most researched keywords is online learning!”
Barries to E-learning: Trust and Technology
According to Haitham Al-Haidari, the CEO of Modaris, there are two main problems with e-learning: trust, and technology.
“Firstly, coronavirus showed us that our education systems have not caught up with technological advancements. It proved that people can learn much faster with individual learning (that can be facilitated with online learning).”
“People did not trust that they would understand through online learning, they did not trust whether the person on the other side will be qualified enough. They also did not trust if they will get ripped off if they pay online. All are small problems, but together they become very big.” He maintained that since people were left with no other choice but to learn online they are slowly realizing that “many of their fears were misplaced and that online tutoring actually works.”
As for the technology, Al-Haidari added, “The world hasn’t really innovated enough to have engaging, effective and efficient platforms for students to learn, yet.” Al-Haidari believes that all platforms have a long way to go since, they are “still not very intuitive.” However, since now many businesses are “forced to build something that can really work for 2020,” he is optimistic that more engaging platforms will pop up in the coming months and that online learning will become “the new norm.”
Evolution of E-learning
Rama Kayyali, the CEO of Little Thinking Minds is optimistic that the virus has forced an evolution to come about in the learning sector. Not only will governments and companies have to work together to solve the issues in low connectivity areas, but the platforms themselves will become stronger as a result of the data and engagement resulting from increased traffic.
“As a result of the lockdown and school closures there is a lot more reliance on distance learning digital tools and as such there will be a huge evolution in the e-learning industry with better data tracking more optimized measuring tools.” Rama Kayyali, CEO, Little Thinking Minds
For Little Thinking Minds, coronavirus significantly increased the engagement by teachers and students on their platform. At the same time, they have had an increase in interest from parents who are much more closely involved in their children’s education, now that they need to compensate time away from school.”The time spent, books read and quizzes answered is growing day by day. We are offering all new schools free usage of the platform and there has been a lot of uptake as schools are searching for proven tools that improve learning outcomes,” says Kayyali.
More Investment into the Edtech Sector?
Omar Farooqui, founder and president of Coded Minds said: “In theory, it should accelerate investments from investors into the edtech sector as it is for sure the need of the hour, especially with regulators also asking all schools to switch to e-learning for the foreseeable future, but having been part of the investment industry for best part of 2 decades investor psychology says they will sit on their hands and wait.. unfortunately, it is a herd mentality a reactionary one instead of leading one so the overall impact will be general slowdown in investment, let alone in [the edtech] sector.”
What does the Future Hold?
Similar to all the other edtech founders, Farooquie believes that “Coronavirus could possibly be the game-changing impact driven event that was needed by the e-learning industry to drive schools and educational institutes towards a true blended learning approach.” However, Farooquie also questions the “real estate driven”schools model. While he believes that campuses will still be needed in the future, he thinks that it won’t be for pedagogy, but more so for the journey aspect i.e.the enrichment of soft skills and personal development.
No matter how e-learning will develop in the future one thing is very clear the outbreak of coronavirus has undoubtedly created the right scene for edtech startups to rise to the occasion. What e-learning will ultimately look like and which players will shine will have to be determined when the crisis passes. Once we get back to our normal lives and survive the immediate impact on cities and the most vulnerable communities, perhaps we will be presented with a different model for education.
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