As we reflect on the pandemic it’s easy to pick out the overwhelming negatives that we faced. One of these hardships was online schooling where millions took to their computers to learn digitally. Overnight, institutions had to scramble to keep education running, providing not just an online learning experience but also a vital classroom setting.
While these things sound the same, they are not. Posting lessons and materials online is one thing but creating an environment where learners’ needs are met in a collaborative and supportive environment is another. One positive aspect of this experiment is that it has actually taught us a lot about how to successfully teach online.
On that note, these are the four vital lessons the pandemic has taught us about online learning that we should remember going forward into the future.
How to learn online
The pandemic clearly showed the one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education students. Younger learners may require physical spaces for socialization and also require supervision and teacher-led delivery. Convenience was found to be important to adult learners, choosing when they wanted to connect with classmates and instructors.
Inequities such as poor access to the internet, digital competence, and lack of financial resources were shown to hugely impact online learning quality. However, online education helped decrease other common geospatial, financial, and orientation barriers experienced in traditional classrooms. This emergency form of education also highlighted the need to prepare students to learn in a range of different settings, whether that be in a physical classroom or online.
How to design online teaching with purpose
The pandemic revealed online teaching must incorporate active engaging roles for individual students. To foster active learning in this way, meaningful teaching must provide learner-centered materials, rather than content-centered.
The most effective course materials were also found to be those that were painstakingly detailed, including everything the teacher would say in a physical classroom and clearly describing all resources and requirements.
How to blend space and time online
This peak of online learning popularized the terms “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning. Synchronous learning replicated the classroom environment, where all members listened to a teacher together, while asynchronous learning required independent working. As we move forward from the pandemic, it’s important to consider the roles of this type of learning in classroom environments and how it impacts the quality of learning.
How to use AI to our advantage
The innovative ways technology and AI can be used outside of a physical classroom have been incredible during the pandemic. Students at Athabasca University were privileged enough to access an AI learning environment, where student support and feedback could be given on-demand at the individual’s pace. This was highly effective as it makes education personalized.
The knowledge we gained in this tough time gave educators the tools to start piecing together how to build better education systems for the future.