The COVID-19 pandemic caused all education providers to revaluate how education can be delivered; most of us were forced to use more immersive forms of education technology to try and provide continuity in education in order that pupil progress and engagement in learning continued in extraordinary times. Now almost two years on from the first school closures in China is late January 2020, most countries have reinstated in-person learning. And now as we move from online back to offline we need to consider the issues and legacy and ways in which Edtech might further change the education as we know it.

If I list the key challenges in trying to transform learning from offline to online then the list may sound familiar to a lot of educators. I was in a fortunate position in China as a Principal of a K-12 school during this time that most of my students had access to digital devices and (reasonably) reliable WiFi connections.

Whilst Higher Education has been offering MOOCs and more bespoke online courses for some years then schools had to adapt, and adapt fast to choose online learning or presentation platforms that provided the most comprehensive and adaptable tools to move learning online.

For many students and staff, then social isolation and lack of in-person contact during lockdown proved to be a key issue so using tools that provided in-class collaboration activities, virtual break-out rooms and communication functions helped to bring a sense of normality to collaborative forms of learning in the virtual classroom. Younger students tend to require more support online so careful planning was required to structure lessons with a combination of online and offline tasks to maintain concentration and interest and allow individual interactivity the teachers. This also helped reduce screen time and eye fatigue and allowed us to adapt the curriculum, although specialist subjects such as drama, physical education, and music had to flex their creative planning muscles to adapt the curriculum. Voice messages sometimes replaced text with students who required reading support to access the curriculum.

Using a real time synchronous learning platform enabled staff to keep in contact with all members of the class; set tasks; students were able to work in groups, use mini blackboards to share ideas etc. Some platforms have much more intuitive tools for teaching than others. This transferred back into the physical classroom with using these interactive and collaborative tools for project based learning.

By blending the learning with both online and place based elements it offered learners greater convenience and flexibility; they had the ability to control their learning pace and learn remotely. Pupils were also able to use their newly honed online learning skills to be able to collaborate on projects across different campuses and engage with experts or other teachers who provided mentoring support. This interactive approach supported the pupil’s social learning.

In time then new technologies will become more cost effective and there is the suggestion in some quarters of the hyper-personalisation of education through the use of smart content, intelligent tutoring systems, AI virtual facilitators and use of immersive learning environments where technology brings place and time to the pupil. I don’t think that this type of technology is too far away from becoming a reality that can be used in a conventional classroom setting or in a digital school. As educators we’ve had to become inventive over the past 18 months and now is time to reflect upon what aspects of online, merge, offline that we want to develop and integrate into our schools.


This article was written by Aaron Lennon, Vice-Principal, CATS College London


Return to the list of CIFE Intercollegiate Articles

[testimonials_slider refresh_interval=3 random="true" show_start_stop="false" hide_source="true" adaptive_height="false"]