Indeed, it is acceptable and established that the ongoing pandemic has caused worldwide chaos. Time passes with bereavement and stress and the hope that is vested within all of us is that our lifestyles will return as planned in 2019. However, mankind has adopted to these unprecedented situations in terms of employment, health, governance and importantly education and much praise is deserved.
As far as education is concerned, schools, universities, and other major educational institutions have been forced to shut down across the globe due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This purports the dangerous notion that education which was a major aspect of people have inevitably come to a halt. Students studying overseas have been encouraged to return to their home countries. According to studies done by the United Nations, nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and continents have been affected by this pandemic and as many as 40 million children worldwide have missed out on early childhood education in their critical preschool year. Governments and other authorities are hesitant to reopen schools and institutions mainly due to the risk of more virus outbreaks. Natural disasters and political turmoil both disrupt the education system however Covid-19 has proven to have the greatest impact when compared to anything in modern history.
With classes, examinations, and assessments conducted online, digital technology has become a forefront in this current situation since most institutions have resorted to online teaching platforms. Internationally recognized distance learning support, which has been greatly recommended by UNESCO, has been announced in schools and universities which are equipped with digital platforms. The introduction of an AI-powered higher educational experience operating on 4 planes which are virtual teaching, learning assessment, opportunity matching for internships and jobs, and mentoring from peers and experts have proven to be a notable success. Furthermore, teachers and lecturers have undergone training in methodology and techniques to continue online teaching in the most productive way. Personalized learning can now be offered with technology, suiting each child’s interests and needs. Within the context of science and technology virtual laboratories provide the opportunity for individuals to design, conduct and learn from experiments that enhance practical and innovative thinking. Online learning tools are often used to create blended learning environments in the classroom. There has been an increased availability of free online resources and also educational programs which are being widely broadcasted on TV and radio.
While initially, this new technological adaptation may seem exhaustive it has nevertheless proven to be a success in terms of both effectiveness and efficiency. Students can enjoy the process of learning while enjoying the comforts at home. With the absence of time allocated for travelling, students indeed save and accumulate a lot of time, that can considerably be used to self-study and research purposes.
Classes are conducted in mainly three types of methods,
Conference Classes- Students and teachers meet up in real-time using skype or another mode of video chatting to engage in lessons despite the distance.
Correspondence Courses- It is the way in which students get hold of class materials and assignments through email.
Virtual learning too has its own drawbacks, not all countries and social classes could afford this access to technology. Third-world countries are more focused on developing the health sector to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus thus resulting in the reduction of funds available for education. Opportunities are scarce for students living in rural areas and for individuals with physical and mental disabilities. Moreover, one-third of learners and an equal percentage of professors do not have sufficient access to internet facilities thus restricting the success of virtual education. Students studying in foreign universities are no longer able to engage with peers, collaborate with researchers in laboratories, and experience different cultural and social life.
However, hope is not lost… the new vaccine for Covid-19 developed from Pfizer and
BioNTech in the United States of America has shown to prevent more than 90% of people from getting the Covid-19 virus. This is an RNA vaccine and it uses an experimental approach that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body, in order to train the immune system. Protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of a 2-dose schedule. If the phase 3 trials of this vaccine are successful, it will be ensured that the education system will slowly get back to normal. It is important to note that there is limited access to this vaccine worldwide. This particular vaccine has to be stored at around -70 degrees Celsius and mass production will initially be limited. According to abc News, the Pfizer and BioNTech company estimate to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine in 2020 and 1.3 billion doses in the year 2021. The vaccine will initially be distributed to the patients who are at the most vulnerable state and those who are at the highest risk such as elderly care facilities and health care providers.
As Benjamin Franklin states “an investment in knowledge plays best interest”, it is vital that everyday academic learning continues even amidst of the most difficult times in life, such as this, as it will surely secure a promising future. Virtual learning environments have paved the way towards accomplishing this goal and even amidst of certain difficulties it has proven to be effective. A rising learning curve is essential for growth while a decreasing curve of Covid-19 is essential for our wellbeing. Therefore, to suit both these circumstances digital technology with its advancements have made a great contribution. We sacrifice the interactive process of learning that we enjoyed prior, but nevertheless, our prayer remains that everything will be fine in just a matter of time.
Article by Nimashi Lewwanduwa