COVID-19 IS forcing new learning models to emerge


The coronavirus pandemic has been profoundly disruptive to the education sector globally, but new learning models are emerging during the crisis, some of which have high levels of efficacy, according to NESLI’s International Advisory Board. 

The International Advisory Board met online recently to discuss the impact of the virus, how it is forcing innovation in schools and what sustained changes might a post-COVID-19 education sector be like.

In the short-term, the situation has exposed a sharp digital divide between the schools and students that are equipped for online learning and those that are not. A lack of reliable, affordable and accessible internet access is creating a situation where access to learning is not equal.

More than 300 million K-12 students globally are currently missing school due to the crisis, and many, particularly in Western countries, will not fully return to schoolgrounds until a vaccine is developed. This is the most fundamental change to school education in modern human history and is forcing new systems of educational guidance to appear. 

The Advisory Board meeting was attended virtually by Dr Bernadine Futrell (US), Professor Stephen Heppell (UK), Professor Jan Heystek (SA), NESLI General Manager APAC Paul Mears (AUS) and NESLI Academic Director Janet Smith (AUS). The big takeaway was that while the current crisis is horrific, and the high cost of legacy systems is very painful, it has also presented schools with potentially exciting hybrid learning models. 

There has been a sudden recognition of the efficacy of online learning in a short period of time. After the crisis is over, it would not be surprising to see 20% of school curricula move online, which will have long-term implications not only for teachers and students, but administrators too.  Similarly, teacher professional learning will continue to move online where the credibility of online professional learning communities will be recognized.

The delivery of remote learning requires different skills and it is important to note that delivering online learning is not just delivering online lectures.

COVID-19 has triggered the potential for a whole new education model mutation which has the potential to be exhilarating. 

For example, assessment is already being disrupted with system-level examination processes being cancelled around the world (eg. A-levels, GCSE and NAPLAN). Whilst initially having a negative impact, this may force the adoption of teacher judgement, peer reviews, self-testing and the other elements of quality assessment that educators have valued since the 1980’s.  

Interestingly, and perhaps most excitingly, the Board also noted that this phase is an opportunity to engage with student voices and perspectives on how we move forward. Children need to be central to the design of this new system. Establishing a dialogue with students and trusting their input is going to be very important over the next six months. Without harnessing this an opportunity could be missed with long-term implications.

The change to society caused by COVID-19 will be profound and the disruption to education will be prolonged.

NESLI’s advisory board is made up of educational leaders from all over the globe. They meet on a quarterly basis to have productive, robust conversations about issues confronting education globally.

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