COVID-19 has disrupted the education sector as we know it. Small cracks in the system are growing larger and have become harder to ignore. Teachers and students are facing daily challenges and are struggling to rapidly adapt. HashedIn has always believed in continuous learning and sharing. The following blog is based on the conversation between Professor Alex Siow, Director & Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), and Vivek Ramachandran – Founder & CEO at Pentester Academy, on their perspectives on formal education and experiential learning.
Experimenting with the Different Mechanisms of Teaching
When it comes to online education, there are two types of learning mechanisms: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous has real-time interaction, while asynchronous learning occurs through online without any real-time interaction, such as pre-recorded lectures. One is neither better than the other, nor can they be separated. According to our speakers, there is a sweet spot – which we have yet to figure out, but, a mix of the two is essential for the best learning experience. As Vivek mentions, “It is a personal preference, however, it is important to have both in order to engage the most number of people.”
With a heavy weightage on synchronous learning, the main challenge is that it can lead to screen fatigue, staring at a screen can be tiring. For example, as Prof. Alex mentions, he saw a significant drop in his students attending his two-hour lectures, from the first week of online classes compared to the third week. One would think that being online should hardly matter, but there are many factors that contribute to learning despite the material and the professor is the same. On the other hand, with the current economic climate, working professionals have the innate fear of losing their jobs. Hence, they will do their best to upskill. Vivek has seen a massive uptake, where professionals are much more engaged with pre-recorded sessions.
Asynchronous might seem impersonal, as it is a one-way transfer of knowledge. Too much weightage on asynchronous might seem unfair to those students who thrive with interactive sessions. Therefore, to balance the two, institutes can start with synchronous, and break down these sessions into smaller chunks so that the students find it easier to consume. Then, move on to asynchronous, where to keep them engaged, it is important to gamify this method of teaching. With online education, it gets difficult to measure the student’s progress. To keep students engaged and motivated to continue learning, they need to be rewarded for the same. One of the major challenges is proctoring and examinations. Unlike the traditional schooling system, where a test would be given to the student after all the material was taught, more frequent assessments should be the way forward. Students will be given badges and micro-certificates can be used for every milestone the student achieves, which adds up to their total score at the end. Innovation with assessment methods is necessary to make it fair for all the stakeholders involved.
Virtual Classrooms: Challenge or Opportunity?
For many teachers, changing from the traditional classroom to an online one has been challenging. Some might not have been as tech-savvy as others and have had to suddenly adapt to this new reality. Should they now invest in multi-camera set-ups – One camera to show their face and one for when they are writing on the board? How do they know they are keeping their students engaged through a screen? How do they know that their students are alert during their lectures?
Apart from the logistics of it all, what about the Professors’ IP? When a student has enrolled in a reputed university, they know and expect a certain standard of education. However, during these times, will students be able to tell the difference between good professors and bad ones? Technology needs to find a solution, for the good professors to do justice to their expertise. Good professors will add their own twist to the same content, making it easy for students to comprehend complex subjects. On the other hand, as Vivek points out, going online also means more students from all over the world will now have access to good professors. Teachers have the ability to significantly influence a student’s life, but unfortunately, bad teachers are more common than we would like to believe. Luckily, with the current circumstances, bad teachers may be wiped out, because students will naturally seek out the best education platforms.
The Role of EdTech
How can technology facilitates education, is what ed-tech is all about. However, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions. Classrooms play an integral part in the growth and development of students. However, in the near future, our definition of classrooms will be different. Creating more excitement in our virtual classrooms and proctoring and assessments are the two of the biggest challenges faced today. Learning will never stop and the ed-tech space has a huge potential. Having said that, new businesses venturing into the ed-tech space need to remember that education has to come first and not the business. It is an exciting time to learn and as they say, “Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.”
HashedIn would like to thank Professor Alex Siow and Vivek Ramachandran for taking the time out to have such an engaging discussion!
Head over to our Youtube channel, for the full video: How COVID-19, is reshaping education and learning