Q: Once schools open, what will be the future of digital and online learning? Is it going to be the way forward?

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in nearly 1.2 billion students being forced to stay at home as classrooms across the world remain closed. The direct result of this has been that millions of students have now gotten used to digital learning as an alternative form of education.

Online classes have existed for years, but it’s the past year that has seen their popularity explode as they have gone from a supplemental tool to a critical way of learning.

Nearly every organisation across the world is getting into edtech. Tencent taught over 750,000 online in the past few months. The BBC launched a 14-week online programme powered by 200 teachers. Imperial College’s online course on the coronavirus pandemic is the most popular programme on Coursera. From self-learning apps to video tutoring, we are learning online at a greater rate than ever before. And in all likelihood, the emergence of digital learning is here to stay.

What is powering digital learning is the fact that modern technology has enabled us to share and connect with each other no matter where we are. Students from Indonesia can participate in a classroom lecture happening in London. Now we can all access a high-quality learning experience, regardless of geographical limitations. Such virtual learning settings have also led to the rise of virtual internships – if people can work from home, so can interns! Companies are providing internships and professors are providing mentorships via the internet. Virtual internships and mentoring experiences are exciting, gratifying and rewarding ways for students to make their CVs more robust and stand out among competition.

Through rapid advancements in technology, it will soon feel like you’re even in the classroom. Virtual reality and augmented reality headsets are enabling a new generation of learning through hands-on lab-based experiences that offer a tactile experience to complement the online classroom experience. In fact, with the advent of such technologies, students are getting access to experiences that were previously not possible even at the most advanced laboratories and universities due to costs and safety issues. If a student wants to learn how to assemble a car, they can do so with a virtual reality headset.

Through meaningful collaborations and relationships with mentors and teachers you could foster research, academic engagements and boost your career. In fact, with online learning, professors will be able to customise their education even more for each student, creating a more personalised and engaging experience than ever before.

The future will definitely include variants of hybrid learning, as digital education is here for good. However, it’s important to be cognisant that this may exacerbate our societal divides. And if the students are extremely young, there is evidence showing that virtual learning may not fully replace classrooms as younger students tend to get distracted easily.

Sanjeev Verma is the managing director of Intelligent Partners, a leading education consultancy based in Dubai (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.

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