The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in schools being shut all across the world. Education has changed dramatically with the much anticipated rise of e-learning. Is EdTech is on a soul-searching journey again, now that lockdown measures are easing?
As lockdown measures slowly ease, many schools and offline learning centres are gradually opening up.
But to date, we’ve yet to see a downward trend in the incredible traction that online learning platforms have built up over the last year. COVID-19 came along and poured rocket fuel on long-brewing trends.
While each startup has a unique strategy and product, the founders behind them all need to answer the same question from now on: can they make online-first learning a preferred mode of pedagogy and comprehension — and not merely a backup — after the pandemic is over?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Online education has its advantages. It allows learners to:
- Study at their own pace;
- Access the best teachers from all over the world;
- Pursue subjects that aren’t available to them locally; and
- Select an education provider based on paying capacity and value proposition.
However, online learning is not always a positive experience for everyone involved. For example, network outages can make it difficult for students to concentrate in Zoom-heavy environments.
The “online merge offline” (OMO) model can offer a compromise.
In short, it combines elements of online and offline education.
As a result, learners might need to attend lessons in person. From there, the education provider can deliver the teaching session using the below-mentioned approaches.
With the two-teacher model, the education provider delivers a live stream of a reputable teacher from a remote location. In the same room, there is an assistant teacher who:
- Provides feedback
- Answers questions
- Keeps learners focused
It also becomes possible to live stream a single session to many classrooms simultaneously.
This approach can reduce the costs involved with hiring staff.
It can also give learners in remote areas access to an experienced teacher in a particular subject.
With adaptive teaching, the educational provider attempts to deliver custom learning experiences. This mode of instruction addresses the unique needs of an individual with just-in-time feedback rather than providing a one-size-fits-all experience.
Educational providers can leverage offline classrooms to capture relevant data points for students. Platforms like Squirrel AI subdivide a topic into smaller conceptual pieces called knowledge points. For example, Mathematics could have over 10,000 “knowledge points”, such as rational numbers, the properties of a triangle, and the Pythagorean theorem.
Each learner starts the lesson with a test that helps Squirrel AI determine the order of the topics to be covered. The platform then figures out the learner’s gaps in understanding. With time, Squirrel AI becomes better at figuring out what to cover next.
Such platforms, in theory, can play a supplementary role in OMO teaching environments. Artificial intelligence can take over rote tasks in the classroom, allowing instructors to pay more attention to each learner.
It’s time to rethink the assumptions made about online education at the height of the pandemic.
Soon, we will need to build models of teaching delivery that enable both offline and online channels of education.
What do you think they will look like?
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Mascarenhas, N., 2021. Tired of ‘Zoom University’? So is edtech. [online] Techcrunch. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2021/02/18/edtech-zoom-university/ [Accessed 12 March 2021].
Smart Sparrow. 2021. What is Adaptive Learning?. [online] Available at: https://www.smartsparrow.com/what-is-adaptive-learning/ [Accessed 12 March 2021].
Sheldon, N., 2019. China has started a grand experiment in AI education. [online] MIT Technology Review. Available at: https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/08/02/131198/china-squirrel-has-started-a-grand-experiment-in-ai-education-it-could-reshape-how-the/ [Accessed 12 March 2021].
Maheshwari, R., 2021. EdTech in post COVID era. [online] Old Rope. Available at: https://oldrope.substack.com/p/edtech-in-post-covid-era-omo-online [Accessed 12 March 2021].