Whilst the biggest changes, such as home learning, were temporary measures during the height of the virus, many other technological developments are here to stay, and are affecting the landscape in their own manner as we look ahead to the new year. 2020 was ultimately a major anomaly in education, with schools initiating emergency measures to accommodate social distancing, online learning, and a COVID response. However, preparations for the 2021/22 academic year will show what changes and advancements will fade in ‘life after COVID’, and which ones are here to stay for the long haul.
It’s fair to say that education is normally one of the more stable business landscapes around - changes happen over longer periods of time, and the industry tends to be quite traditional in its approach. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the education landscape into wholesale changes, the sector was in turmoil.
Hybrid learning is a trend that is going to dominate the education landscape, specifically in the upper echelons such as universities and colleges. This is not just for the upcoming year, but going forward indefinitely. Online learning became the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, and born out of that is the need for hybrid learning - a reasonable split between traditional, physical learning, and online virtual learning.
Most educational institutions now understand the benefits of a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and this is arguably the biggest landscape change of the modern education era. Hybrid learning opens lots of doors to opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible without embracing technological advances.
It’s widely understood that virtual learning will slow down and become far less prominent as the pandemic continues to recede and we enter our ‘new normal. However, just because virtual learning is slowing up, it doesn’t mean that the technological advancements in education will too. If anything, the education sector is beginning to truly understand the benefits of evolving with technology and embracing advancements into a fairly traditional industry. One key benefit we’ll continue to see is the introduction of Student Information and Learning Management Systems (SIS and LMS).
There are many benefits to introducing a fully integrated SIS and LMS into your educational offerings, especially in a higher learning environment where hybrid learning will begin to dominate. The need for virtual accessibility is going to prove to be one of the key driving points, with students, parents, and even teachers alike now accustomed to being able to run their lives from the touch of a button. Having access to virtual content libraries, virtual tours, external learning opportunities, or even different methods of virtual communication is going to become commonplace in modern learning - and none of these are achievable without a strong LMS or SIS.
As the old proverb goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. This is true across the board - if you don’t have the right preparations won’t be able to keep up with technological developments as they occur, and you’ll fall behind your better-prepared competitors.
The education sector, similarly to most of the world, was woefully underprepared for the pandemic, and therefore many hit the panic button. In early 2020, it was unfathomable that COVID-19 would be capable of sweeping across the globe, let alone grinding it to a halt. It’s no surprise that businesses weren’t prepared, even when contingency planning for ‘every eventuality.
However, as we move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, towards our ‘new normal, experts are still predicting that this won’t be the last pandemic the world sees. Clearly, we need to be better prepared if a similar situation does hit, but businesses are still needing to take every necessary precaution to be as best prepared as possible.
For education, the biggest shift was moving to virtual learning and implementing a usable technology that could support this. For education providers to now be able to operate a successful virtual, hybrid, or blended learning model, it will be far easier and painless to pivot to virtual learning, should another lockdown or other global event ensue.
Similarly, students now have more control over the education facilities that they attend, especially as they progress higher up the education ladder, so being able to provide the most up to date and technologically advanced offerings will lead to your institution becoming more desirable to students who are either more in demand, or looking for more from their education provider.
Ultimately, we’d expect the upcoming year to be a shift to a ‘new normal’ - a fusion of traditional learning with new technological advances. Realistically, the lower rungs of the education ladder (such as primary) are likely to remain more traditional with face-to-face and physical learning taking dominance. However, universities and higher education institutions are likely to provide a combination of virtual and physical learning.
Despite these changes, the biggest expectation for this new year is going to be one of wariness towards change, whilst embracing technology in preparation for expecting the unexpected, should our world grind to a halt again.
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