September 02, 2020

Learning in the Covid-19 Era

Yana is an 8th grade student living in a bustling part of Houston, Texas. She has a penchant for science, and relishes spending time in the chemistry lab at school running experiments. She and her friends were working on an exciting science project when schools began shutting due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As the schools and offices gradually began moving towards distance-learning and work-from-home, respectively, some of Yana’s friends temporarily moved to different cities to be with their grandparents, aunts and uncles. One of them was Alex who moved to Decatur, Alabama where his father works. Distance learning was not easy for everyone. While Yana’s transition to online learning was seamless, her friend Alex faced many challenges in gaining access to a computer and decent internet connection. Moreover, he loves teamwork, so learning all by himself is making him demotivated.

The digital divide is so starkly visible now more than ever. This is seen not just across countries but also between income brackets within countries. For example, according to OECD data, whilst 95% of students in Switzerland, Norway, and Austria have a computer to use for their schoolwork, only 34% in Indonesia do.

More than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries are affected by school closures. All those children who lack access to the internet and computers now lack access to education. For those who do have access to education, the move to online-only learning has not been easy. Not being able to interact with friends and teachers is taking a toll on children’s mental health. Most schools employ a collaborative learning methodology which they are unable to do so now. Teachers on the other hand are finding it increasingly difficult to build a rapport with their students, which was much easier to do in a physical classroom setting. This in turn affects the interactivity of teachers with their students.

Covid-19 has changed the whole concept of education overnight. Even before the pandemic, there was a high growth and adoption in education technology, with global EdTech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019. Now with the pandemic, the overall market for online education is projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025.

The real challenge during this pandemic is the development of quality interactive content that could prove to be a viable substitute for the classroom learning experience. Traditional learning has created a rather constricted environment for students who now want to explore digital content that is engaging and customized to their needs. Technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality are enabling the shift from a conceptual learning paradigm to an experiential one. These technologies are gaining momentum, creating a space for collaborative learning, to compensate for the classroom experience.

One of the most noted trends is the combination of e-learning systems with gamification, a learning methodology that applies gaming elements to motivate consistent participation and long-term engagement. Gamification is being used increasingly to create social interactions in a virtual environment. Several e-learning applications are implementing these methodologies to give a wholesome learning experience, and Eduzo is one such player. 

While employing gamification, addressing the cognitive demands is imperative because every student is motivated to learn in different ways. Eduzo’s learning model comprises of gamified elements, increasing interactivity and engagement at each layer of learning. Eduzo uses augmented reality solutions to really help children visualize and understand what they are learning. This way, Yana can sit at her Houston home and run her Chemistry experiments on the app. What’s more, she and her friends can interact on the app and share their learning journey with each other. When the digital divide is addressed, children like Alex can also have a seamless learning experience – all they would need is access to a mobile phone. 

Yana is now learning grade 8 mathematics on Eduzo. She just completed probability and data analysis lessons. She wants to re-learn algebra as she didn’t quite understand the first time she learned it at school. In the app, Yana is amazed to find out that algebra is just a pattern of numbers. With this foundation, she aces the Evaluation module on Eduzo. Having finally gained access to stable internet connection and a mobile phone, Alex is lagging a little. He logs into the application and is reassured that it is never too late to begin the learning journey. Eduzo gives him goals to complete and badges for every goal he completes. Alex is very motivated, and in no time, he and Yana are solving algebraic equations together!

As technology develops, the pillars around which the new trends in e-learning will advance would be customized learning, accessibility, engagement, and user-centric learning. Learning is being re-imagined in every way, and one such example is Eduzo that uses Augmented Reality to address the gap between learning and understanding.

Once Yana and Alex go back to school when this pandemic comes to a halt, their teachers who have also been exploring some futuristic teaching methods, will employ such applications in their classrooms to teach children visually, bringing to life algebraic equations and thermodynamics using augmented reality. 

Can this technology replace classroom learning? Only time will tell – but for now, we can be assured that when the dust settles, we are bound to see a brand-new educational landscape, re-imagined at all levels.

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