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What does the shift to virtual learning mean for education?

by Contributing Author

Over the years, unexpected events have forced society to experiment with new ideas leading to tectonic shifts widely. For example, did you know that during World War II, when the American men went to war, women found out that they could also perform tasks that were deemed men’s duties? Recently, the coronavirus pandemic forced the world to start experimenting with new ways of doing things.  

One of the things that were adversely affected was the education sector. Most of the learning institutions were forced to rethink their teaching models after the traditional classroom meetings were suspended for a while. Several reports on the education sector have revealed that most learning institutions were experimenting with virtual learning. 

What Is Virtual Learning? 

Virtual learning is defined as a learning experience that utilizes computers and the internet inside and outside the learning facilities in learning institutions. The instruction mostly happens in an online setting. The teachers and learners are not in the same physical facility and might be in different regions and time zones. 

Virtual learning is not an unknown phenomenon; it’s been around for a while. For instance, some websites host English tutors for beginners where you can login and start learning English online. However, the pandemic has made the world start looking at this mode of learning more seriously. 

As a result, there are growing concerns that the new way of thinking could dramatically change learning the way people know it. There are questions such as; will it replace the traditional classrooms? What happens when the lockdowns are lifted?  

What does the Shift to Virtual Learning Mean for Education’s Future?

It Is Support, Not a Takeover

Many experts have been arguing that virtual learning could take over the traditional classroom. However, this is an improbable scenario. This is because several challenges come with virtual classrooms that might not be resolved. For instance: 

  • There are childcare issues at home which have to be addressed.
  • Moreover, the education stakeholders have to consider the damage that virtual learning might cause the student’s social lives.
  • Classroom tutors will also tell you that it might be a tall order to manage a virtual classroom.

Despite these challenges, you should expect most educational facilities to offer their learners support facilities online. This becomes a great channel to help students that are struggling in certain areas.

What About Higher Education?

Students at the college and university level enjoy more autonomy than their counterparts in high school. Moreover, the classrooms are bigger, and there is less engagement between the teachers and the learners. Therefore, it is the student’s responsibility to take care of their learning.

In such cases, they may virtually give students a chance to learn certain classes. This also means that the universities can admit students from all over the world. The universities will also be able to enjoy the services of some of the best professors from all over the globe.

Studies have revealed that English is the most used language on the internet. Therefore, if you are skilled in a particular subject area, you should consider taking an English class online. You can find out how you can learn English online to help practice your English[1]  grammar. This move will help you land lucrative jobs from some of the top universities worldwide.

There Is a Need for IT Infrastructure Improvements

Studies into how learning institutions have coped during the pandemic have revealed that there are hardware and software issues to be addressed to make remote learning a success. Moreover, technologies like Artificial Intelligence, cloud computing, and mobile have the potential to transform virtual learning if deployed at scale.

There is also a need to improve bandwidth capacity and digital inequalities. Research has made it clear that online education could disenfranchise students from humble backgrounds. For example, students from affluent families can access the latest computers, better bandwidths, and more reliable internet connections.

Therefore, you should expect to see more investments going into these areas as more people try to adapt to the new way of doing things. Institutions of learning will go all out to make their IT infrastructure reliable for virtual learning.

There Will Be Training for Students and Faculty Members

Another challenge virtual learning is facing is that not all faculty members feel comfortable with virtual learning. Some faculty members have never used the basic audio-visual equipment and are only familiar with flip charts and blackboards.

On the other hand, students also have to face various issues with online classes. They have to learn to balance between browsing the internet, chatting with friends, and attending online courses. So, can students really concentrate in online classes?

Consequently, there will be training efforts to ensure the gap between those tech-savvy and those with technophobia is bridged. Eventually, they might get the necessary mindset to make online classes a success.

Therefore, as the crisis dust settles, will all the students return to classrooms? Will they continue with the “new normal?” At the moment, it is a matter of waiting and seeing.   


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