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Since the early days of COVID-19, the pandemic has uprooted our long-standing education ecosystem through unprecedented disruptions, forever shaking it to its core. Just like any other industry, schools, colleges, universities and education centers were forced to shut their doors, leaving their corridors to fall eerily silent while buses lay abandoned at the parking lots of these once lively institutes of learning. Most education systems are forced to adopt alternatives to support learning and almost all of them moved activities online to ensure continuous student development.

The absence of education infrastructures has placed increased emphasis to provide children with access to digital technologies on top of the necessary knowledge and skills to keep up with the teaching process. However, migrating to a digital or hybrid space is not the ultimate solution. Educators still need to explore better ways to communicate with students and measure performances while parents grapple with the trials and tribulations of turning their homes into conducive classrooms.

To begin, the education system needs to adopt comprehensive digital distance learning solutions instead of merely relying on online conferencing software. This holistic approach includes the utilization of virtual whiteboards, adaptive assessment tools, learning management systems, interactive video sessions and insight-driven analytics. It empowers teachers to reach out to their students efficiently and effectively as indicated by research studies which suggest that on average, e-learning enables students to retain 20% to 60% more materials, compared to physical classrooms at 8% to 10%.

Students also need an avenue to acquire digital skills to ensure a seamless entry into the online classroom, thus, strengthening their ability to cope with virtual lessons and meeting curriculum objectives. The increased digital literacy among children will not only impact their learning capabilities but help reduce cyber-threats such as cyberbullying, fake news and reputational risk. As schools collaborate with digital solutions providers, there will be proper preparation and adequate safeguards in place for children to develop their digital skills and intelligence in a safer and more secure online environment.

It cannot be understated how crucial a role parents play during homeschooling even if parents find themselves struggling to navigate the new realities of digital education due to job- or family-related obligations. This is where intelligent collaborative tools come into effect in fostering better communication between educators and parents. By embracing cloud technologies, teachers will be able to share their personalized remote learning master plan while parents are able to leave remarks or ask questions whenever they want. There are also companion apps that visualize insights for parents to support and monitor their children’s progress in real-time such as attendance, homework and grades.

While it is still early days, some countries have already digitalized their education system to varying degrees of success. In Singapore, some schools have equipped their teachers with a collaboration suite that offers video conferencing, auto-translation, co-editing and smart calendar scheduling features. Meanwhile, China has implemented online platforms with cloud technologies to distribute learning resources and support livestream channels to conduct classes in real-time where students can freely select the required courses. India, on the other hand, has put in place a low-bandwidth solution to ensure that content is readily available to 3G devices with minimal interruption during peak hours.

In the middle of a pandemic, technology has unquestionably played a role in ensuring that education never stops. While internet providers have successfully maintained operations, there are still underserved groups such as those living in remote areas or from low-income families. Without accessibility, education in this new normal is far from success, which calls for a collaboration between students, educators, parents, technology providers and policymakers to maximize the potential of virtual learning when regular classrooms are impossible.

As the learning space continues to evolve, the education sector will expand beyond the physical world as it stands to benefit from creating connected, flexible and personalized learning environments in the virtual realm. In the future, whether classrooms are set to permanently re-open or whether this voyage brings about a hybrid approach in the next chapter of our human history, digital technologies will be at the forefront of the educational experience. And the reason is simple: everyone – no matter who they are or where they come from – deserves an education.