Edutech combined with data-driven personalization and all-round inclusivity can make up for the limitations of virtual classrooms, according to Wiley Zhang.

The pandemic has caused massive changes to the education landscape affecting about 1.1 billion students globally, including around 200 million students in the Asia Pacific region.

Where some countries have returned to the classroom with reduced class sizes, new health policies, and social distancing measures, others are sticking to a 100% remote-learning model, especially with the emerging threat of the Omicron variant.

Despite nagging uncertainties what has become clear is that educators must now equip themselves with new teaching pedagogies, embrace technology and virtual environments, and ensure that learning takes place beyond the physical classroom.

In the wider context, to navigate the future of education, education institutions will need to reassess the landscape, innovate and leverage technology to deliver better learning experiences for educators and students.  

Maintaining the sacred cows

When it comes to an ideal learning environment in the pandemic era, the recent moves worldwide to remote and hybrid classrooms have underlined a few imperatives.

  • Facilitating human connection and personalizing the learning experience will continue to be the mandates for all educators regardless of the model each institution decides to adopt.
  • Human interaction is a key ingredient in learning. Wherever educators and students are located, maintaining proper communication channels can nurture the desired relationships among teachers and fellow classmates that can boost the overall learning and classroom experience. 
  • Keeping in mind that no student learns the same way or at the same pace, educators will continue to emphasize personalised learning as the foundation for the best education experience for every individual student.
  • Educators will need to leverage all the tools and technologies suitable for providing richer and higher quality learning experiences amid various constraints in the pandemic and post-pandemic era.

How video digitalization can help

Many educational institutions have found visual communications to be a critical tool at the heart of many education strategies. Today, educators are becoming more confident and comfortable in integrating video technology into their teaching methods, using video calls as a primary conduit to engage with  students and build stronger connections.

For schools that cannot conduct lessons face-to-face, this means ensuring that classrooms are fully video enabled to facilitate virtual connections. At the same time, video presents an opportunity to enrich the learning experience, exposing students to learning beyond the classroom walls and connecting them to specialists and schools across the globe.

In light of concerns about mental wellness among students, video conferencing has provided some respite. From academic guidance to emotional support, video conferencing is an important channel for school counsellors to connect with students despite geographical limitations.

Finally, as the learning environment becomes more digitalized, having the right video technology equipment and gear will help educational institutions to bridge the digital gap and provide the right channels for students to seek support.

The classroom of the future is data driven

We are seeing major changes occurring across pandemic-disrupted education systems: where schools once had temporary solutions in place, they now need longer-term solutions to engage in a virtual world where health and safety are at front-and-center in everyone’s mind.

This is where video combined with data analytics can help. One example is in the use of machine learning technologies in the classroom. With many public settings being subjected to distancing measures, video analytics technologies can identify over- or under-utilized rooms, set occupancy limits and monitor the number of people in a given room, allowing IT teams to quickly identify proximity compromises and take action. 

In addition, AI-powered cameras with custom lenses can also be used to broadcast whiteboard content in a hybrid setting, bring traditionally in-person tools to the home, thereby facilitating increased engagement between students and educators.

Beyond edutech: bridging divides

Educational innovation is not limited to technology, but also to processes. To troubleshoot and optimize the virtual learning experience for all, academic institutions can assign students and teachers to special roles of ‘tech leads’, or ‘super users’ of video collaboration. This helps engage and encourage stakeholders to become active participants in shaping the learning experience, whether in the physical or virtual classroom.

To bridge any digital divides, all stakeholder (educators, parents, and students) need to communicate frequently and share regular feedback on the effectiveness of solutions, and to identify any obstacles to the learning experience. This will help ensure that innovations and initiatives are relevant and not implemented just for technology’s sake.

While the blueprint for the next evolution in education is still being written, what is certain is that educators will need to leverage all the tools at their disposal—from video collaboration tools to new portals and stronger technology guidance frameworks—to create a rich learning environment that can help them stay connected and engaged with learners.