How Covid-19 will drive digital transformation in education

Digital transformation embraced by educators the world-over during Covid-19 will transform the education sector for generations to come.

Terry Lewis

Nobody could have predicted how completely 2020 would change the world. The beginning of a new decade also sparked the start of a new era for many businesses, one driven by digital transformation, rapid adoption of new technology, and the arrival of new workplace practices.

Every industry has felt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare organisations began looking for ways to deliver care from a distance. Contact centres had to shut down or embrace tools that allowed employees to work from home. Even the education landscape experienced a massive change. According to a UNESCO report, around 1.54 billion children felt the impact of the Covid-19 school closures.

As the UK and countries around the world struggle to find their footing following the arrival of the pandemic, educational leaders need to find a way to adapt to new demands or risk the future of a generation.

How Covid-19 affected the education server

Covid-19 forced traditional schools to shut down all over the world. More than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries were left unable to attend school due to the pandemic. From a financial perspective, the closures have created significant pressure for the education environment. No revenue is coming in means that professors and teachers are on the chopping block.

The Covid-19 situation has prompted a variety of problems, but it has also created a ripple effect on the future of educational innovation. Traditional methods of learning weren’t enough to withstand the rapid change in the industry, organisations now need a different way to respond.

The rapid shift away from the classroom has left many wondering whether the growth of online learning will continue after the pandemic. Even before the Covid-19 issue began, there was significant educational technology growth, with EdTech investments reaching around $18.66 billion in 2019.

Experts believe that the overall market for online education will only continue to grow, with the arrival of virtual tutoring, language apps, video conferencing tools, and online learning software.

The changes already taking place

Already, many educational innovators have jumped in to make the switch to digital learning easier for today’s schools and facilities. A variety of online learning platforms began offering free access to their services, while tools like Microsoft Teams and Slack gained significant attention. Access to free and discounted video conferencing tools meant that students and teachers could learn how to interact in a new way.

Tencent classroom achieved exceptional growth since February after the Chinese government asked a quarter of a billion students to start resuming their studies using online platforms. This year has spared the largest shift to online learning ever achieved in the history of education, with around 730,000 students attending school online in Wuhan alone.

The shift to online education is sure to have a long-term impact on how students get their education. The culture of being able to learn anywhere, at any time is gaining a lot of ground. A growing number of academic institutions are seeing the benefits of using digital learning for an uninterrupted flow of education, regardless of outside disturbances and factors.

Many schools and colleges have now started the shift towards video broadcasting tools and online file sharing solutions. Products like Teams Talk from Nice Network give businesses the chance to expand their collaboration platform and link it to their existing communication stack.

The Teams Talk solution brings carrier-grade telephony to Microsoft Teams, ensuring staff members never miss a meeting or call, regardless of where they are. The same strategy can apply to teachers that are now operating from various locations. Tutors and educators have access to a full communication and collaboration system suitable for use wherever they are.

Overcoming the digital divide

More than anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed groups in the educational industry to leave the digital divide behind once and for all. Online classes are no longer just an option for people working full time who want to have access to an extra form of education.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, millions of schools, colleges, and other environments already used online learning solutions to upskill professors and unlock new revenue opportunities. Going forward, demand for these flexible opportunities will continue to increase. Students will have the freedom to attend lessons from home when they’re unwell or unavailable to visit class.

In the future, we may see an environment where certain educational facilities support students in coming into the building “part-time”, reducing the amount of maintenance needed for the business. The shift in the landscape means that all kinds of educational facilities must assess their current systems to stop “thinking digital” and start “being digital”.

All kinds of educators will be looking at how they can adapt curriculums and lesson plans to fit with an environment where digital learning might be a better option for their students. There needs to be a comprehensive plan in place going forward for how digital lessons will be delivered, and what needs to be in place for both students and teachers to thrive.

What will the future of education look like?

The unplanned and rapid move to digital and online learning is likely to lead to poor user experience, maintenance issues, and security problems. Ultimately, educational facilities will need to take the time to prepare properly for an age of sustained growth if the industry is going to move into the digital landscape long-term.

Just like in many business landscapes, a lot of professionals believe that future models for education will by hybrid in nature, with part-time learning both on and off-campus. There’s an overwhelming belief that online education will be a critical and consistent part of school education in the years to come.

Already, many universities are making this transition. For instance, the Imperial College of London began offering a course on the science behind the coronavirus recently, and it’s now the most enrolled class from 2020 that’s available on Coursera. Students and teachers alike are seeing the benefits of a more flexible and versatile environment for learning.

Demand for these opportunities will only continue to grow as new technology emerges to make experiences more innovative. For instance, rapid advancements in 5G technology will help schools and colleges to deliver lessons through video with less latency and share files in real-time. The rise of 5G will support more mobile lesson experiences and even unlock the door for IoT, VR, and AR in learning.

Imagine a future where students will be able to put on a headset and step into a virtual classroom with all of their friends in seconds. That could be where we’re headed.

The education landscape is changing

The pandemic has transformed the education system on a massive scale. However, this isn’t necessarily all bad news. Much of the old-fashioned learning practices that we still relied on before 2020 were already outdated. Schools often still focus on traditional academic skills and rote learning, rather than preparing students for new environments.

The move to online learning and the rapid shift of the educational environment could be the catalyst that the industry needs to change. A more effective and efficient method of education students of all ages and backgrounds could be on the way.