COVID 19 Pandemic:

Transformation in the education sector a reality beyond digital world

The Corona Virus- 19 pandemic has changed the global world throwing up new challenges and opportunities. At the forefront of these challenges is the education sector.

With the epicenter of the pandemic initially being Europe, schools were first shut down in Italy with rising confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus. In order to keep students safe and avoid further spread, more schools were shut down in more of the affected regions as a precautionary measure. The rapid spreading of the coronavirus within weeks across Europe, Asia, Australia, Middle East, and the United States, forced countries to take swift and decisive actions to mitigate the action of a full-blown pandemic and avoid community transmission of the virus, thus changing the course of action in every public sphere of life and lockdown becoming a reality.

According to a recent report by a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) nearly 87 percent of earth‘s student population are out of school accounting to nearly 1.5 billion and 60 million teachers are also at home across 165 countries worldwide. An unprecedented situation due to the pandemic has changed how students are educated around the world, redefining and changing it forever.

The pandemic has challenged the education sector and broadened the horizon of learning and teaching, thus becoming a catalyst for educational institutions worldwide to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time.

Technology has been at the forefront of this process. In a short span of time, virtual classrooms got a new dawn. Various digital platforms are being used to conduct online classes from primary schools to universities across countries. Hong Kong and China spearheaded this move with learning from home concepts becoming a reality. Beginning from the month of February, these two nations quickly put digital platforms and interactive apps. While in China schools started using live television broadcasts where in millions of Chinese students got access to learning material. The Norwegian Education Ministry opened a free national platform for various digital services in education.

Mexico has to offer a mix of distance education options, with open television for everyone since only 60 percent of the students have access to the Internet. While few other countries started using simple, easily available and accessible platforms like Microsoft and Google classroom with augmented synchronous face-to-face video instruction to help preempt school closures. In Turkey, the Ministry of National Education launched a free “remote educational system” with a television- and Internet-based curriculum “on a national scale”.

For India, being the world’s second most populous country, with more than 1.3 billion people and over 300 Million students’ population and the largest student body in the world, the challenge is greater. With the scare of pandemic spreading, India look an immediate action for a lockdown and social distancing that resulted in shutting down of schools and colleges.

Indian Education system quickly rose to the occasion and began the online classes within no time. Amity University, largest Private University has successfully moved to online classes for over 416 courses across 17 streams including Nano technology, Immunology, those as diverse as communication, psychology, finance, economics, acting and Film Studies, music and visual art. Over 2000 faculty members have been seamlessly conducting their classes as of second week of March, 2020.

According to Dr. Atul Chauhan, Chancellor, Amity University, the coronavirus pandemic is a distressing situation globally. It is a testing time for the human race. As a leading university, it is important to continue imparting education and engage students in learning with this in mind. “To begin with we set up a Digital Learning Task Force comprising technology experts, Vice Chancellor and academicians to facilitate the process to train and support faculty members to start online teaching. Amity used various platforms to centralize class scheduling and for providing tutorial support for faculty members and students. The transition has been smooth and students, faculty and parents have adopted it well, and within no time we have proved to be successful. We believe in holistic approach towards society with wellbeing of the community and country. We are proud that we are leading and successfully delivering quality education in these challenging times when the world is in the grip of the pandemic” said Dr. Atul Chauhan.

There is no question that technology will play a vital role in the future of education. But, it can be argued that technology by itself only provides the tools for building that future, not the reason itself. To reimagine the future of digital learning, we must understand the reasons and drivers pushing higher education to change. There is perhaps no greater drive to change than building a future focused on student success.

With the advancement of technology it is seen that learners and solution providers truly embracing the ‘learning anywhere, anytime’ concept of digital education in a range of formats. Traditional in-person classroom learning will be complemented with new learning modalities - from live broadcasts to ‘educational influencers’ to virtual reality experiences. Learning could become a habit that is integrated into daily routines - a true lifestyle.

March 2020 will go down in the history as the deadliest year with millions of death and suffering of billions but it will also be remembered as a year that brought in wider technology and innovation in the field of education and learning. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of building resilience to face various threats, from pandemic disease to extremist violence to climate insecurity, and even, yes, rapid technological change. The pandemic is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of the skills students need in this unpredictable world such as informed decision making, creative problem solving, and perhaps above all, adaptability. To ensure those skills remain a priority for all students; resilience must be built into our educational systems as well.

Dr. Kaveri Devi Mishra, Associate Professor, Amity School of Communication, Amity University