How Can We Approach Continued Education in the New Reality?

Young and old people alike need to continue learning. Kids need a good education to improve their prospects for the future. Adults have to embrace further learning as the key to constant improvement and all-around maturity.

But Covid-19 has enforced change upon us in this area, as it has in so many others. How can you approach continued education when attending classes in person poses a risk to your health?

The obvious solution

One of the immediate responses to the pandemic was for employers across industries to allow their people to work from home as much as possible. And remote working has proven that people can still be productive, and teams can continue to collaborate.

The parallels with education are clear. If people in a professional work environment can transition away from their offices and get the job done, surely instructors and students can also adapt using similar tools.

After all, online learning is hardly a new option. Universities have been offering advanced degree programs for years on their websites. Even people working full-time can pursue higher education or aim for CNA training in their spare time to specialize and land better jobs. And outside the framework of formal education, sites like Udemy or Coursera offer an assortment of courses to teach various supplementary skills.

People today are also increasingly adept with technology. Younger generations are more at home using social media than their elders. And through the highly social medium of video games, many of us have experience in effective communication and collaboration, even with strangers.

Barriers to online learning

Online classes are an obvious solution to the problem of education. But there are other challenges involved. Since online education has been around for a while now, some of these problems aren’t new.

There are challenges that students can overcome on an individual level. For example, the predisposition toward unproductive distractions can be enhanced when learning takes place on a computer. Most people would feel that it’s up to the student to develop the necessary discipline and focus in that context. But what about students whose engagement in the course material is tied to social interactions and group activities?

Moreover, we know that technical issues can derail the learning experience. Have you ever been on a video call where a colleague dropped out due to a spotty connection? It can be annoying or even amusing, but what if your workload depended on their output?  Now, what if a student can’t effectively learn because, for various reasons, they don’t enjoy the privilege of a good broadband connection?

Finally, challenges don’t just lie on the learner’s side. It’s a two-way process; instructors also have to adjust to the new model of online learning. Some teachers prove more or less adept at doing so.

Outcomes matter, and they complicate the issue of online learning. We enroll our children, or ourselves, in programs because we assume that completing the course will yield the same outcome. Better learning. Better preparation for succeeding courses or for jobs in the real world. And if the online environment remains prone to inconsistency in that regard, the student has less control over their learning.

The new reality for classrooms

empty classroom

Thus, the implementation of online learning for everyone will encounter numerous issues and birthing pains. And in the meantime, many schools have chosen to reopen.

The classroom environment still provides children with a more uniform and standardized learning opportunity. It allows them to develop social skills. Adults attending in-person classes enjoy similar benefits from informal interactions with their instructors and peers.

Yet as they have reopened, our schools have emerged as potential hotspots for the coronavirus. The takeaway must be that safety measures need to be implemented for in-person classes to continue.

Classroom learning can occur in a low-transmission community with reduced class sizes, preferably in an outdoor venue or indoors with improved ventilation. Students must observe social distancing and practice hand washing at all times. Extraneous talk should be avoided, especially shouting. Surfaces, especially high-contact areas, should be disinfected regularly.

Particular care must be taken when consuming snacks or drinks, as students will need to lower their face masks. And you’ll have to consider the mode of transportation; getting to school via bus or ride-sharing, for instance, will increase exposure.

Whether the concern involves your children or your further career prospects, pursuing an education in the new reality will be fraught with risk. With better awareness of the challenges facing both online and in-person learning, you can make smart choices and balance those needs against overall safety.

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