There is no doubt we will encounter a changed world after the coronavirus outbreak is over. COVID-19 and its long-term impact on different areas of business are often referred to as a ‘black swan’ situation (a term used in finance to describe an unpredictable and extremely rare event with potentially severe consequences). Epidemics could be the ‘black swans’ to shed light upon the educational technologies as one of the World Bank specialists suggests in his revisited review.
The crisis will be over one day, and education is one of the few markets that will be radically changed after more or less the pace of our life gets back to normal.
In 2009, there was an epidemic of the H1N1 virus (the so-called ‘swine flu’), precedented by the earlier outbreaks of ‘bird flu’ and SARS. Coronavirus is not a one-off challenge and we should expect additional phases of the epidemic and new outbreaks in the future. During the SARS epidemic in China, television and special educational programs for students helped to support teachers in filling the learning void caused by the school closures. In the coming years, the role of online tools for education and their public acknowledgment has transformed significantly in China and other countries.
The experts of Harvard Business Review consider preparation and preemption as some of the key factors that can predict an eventual success in leading your business through this crisis. Now, what about the eLearning?
Twelve US states have already implemented policies for special "eLearning days" that are planned as a method of continuing instruction during school closures, according to the Digital Learning Report. These closures may be unplanned (e.g., inclement weather or seasonal spikes in flu-related absences) or planned, e.g. professional learning days for teachers. Schools in other districts have been experimenting with digital learning, too, and canceled classes when circumstances necessitate. Most beneficial about this practice is that switching to 100% eLearning during an emergency will be less traumatic when children are used to working with digital platforms as part of their normal classroom routines. Forewarned means forearmed in this context. We never know where or when the next catastrophe may strike, but we must do everything we can to prevent its consequences.
We are now seeing unprecedented demand for digital learning, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of children and youth to switch to distance learning due to school closures around the world. Experts suggest that the coronavirus can create a strong impulse that will finally bring online education out of the shadows, and make online learning the new normal, as well as embedding of technology into the educational processes.
It is convenient for both teachers and students. Learning management systems (LMS) help bring together the core elements of the learning process (feedback, assessment, grading, student groups, and chats, etc.), and provide two essential elements students need for effective learning: motivation and feedback. Unlike self-driven courses, an LMS allows students to work in groups, feel more connected to others, and keep track of their progress. Students can be engaged in different forms of assignments, have access to real-time communication with instructors or frequent feedback, assessment, and grading. And all can be achieved through one interface. Teachers will most likely use learning management systems and other effective online tools in the future.
Traditionally, institutes of higher education have always remained rather conservative in their approach to learning. However, as universities develop digital competencies, their temporary response to a crisis might become an enduring digital transformation of higher education, as the CEO of Coursera Jeff Maggioncalda suggested. COVID-19 has become a catalyst to use innovative technologies in learning: interactive apps, live broadcasts, VR/AR experiences, and ‘educational influencers’. The initiative of financing support of schools, students, and their parents for the period of school closures is gaining popularity among global companies. One of the goals of such campaigns is to provide access to online learning for people living in remote and rural areas. AT&T has recently funded $10 million to support families and educators throughout the COVID-19 quarantine period. The change in the educational approach nowadays is a shift towards mass collective thinking and cooperation rather than mass learning.
According to FinanceOnline, the mobile learning market is estimated to grow to $38 billion in 2020, and the global LMS and eLearning market share growth is expected to reach $15.72 billion by 2021 and $22.4 billion by 2023. The main drivers of the current boom on the LMS market are, in particular, the growing introduction of distance learning, the use of artificial intelligence, and machine learning in both business and educational environments. Mobile learning will remain the most popular model for training delivery and to supplement the other types of training and is considered one of “must-have” trends in eLearning. Due to the coronavirus quarantine, more than 50 million people in China stayed home with their smartphones, which led to an increase in mobile apps downloads. Experts predict it could usher in a new era for mobile applications, online services and stocks related to these sectors. Besides, 39% of Chinese users plan to buy new mobile phones in the second half of this year, according to a recent study. It gives grounds to believe that the market of mobile applications will open up new prospects, which include the development of mobile apps for learning.
Online education, digital healthcare services, and remote working are currently in high demand — these are the areas that are currently attracting investment. Investors hope that the readiness for innovation on the part of universities and schools will attract more and more students and teachers to it. It is the prospects of the mass introduction of digital education that determines the dynamics of financing educational technologies. One of the new directions is the use of soft-skills — an element of social learning, which involves cooperation between colleagues in the workplace. LMSs are ideal for social learning (as well as for other types — mixed, synchronous/asynchronous). According to another study, 73% of organizations intend to increase investment in social learning.
Virtual schools are not a new solution. Large countries with highly dispersed populations, such as the United States, Australia, and Canada, often turn to the practice of virtual schools in areas where it is economically unprofitable to build brick and mortar schools. As of 2017, the largest number of virtual schools (93.2%) was in the USA, followed by Canada (3.8%) and Europe (less than 1%) of the total number of virtual schools in the world.
It is much easier to switch immediately to distance learning in schools in countries where there have been precedents of mass school closures due to epidemics or natural disasters. Also, countries that have long invested in digital education are showing excellent results. The leader among European countries is Estonia, for which the transition to fully online learning under quarantine is just a continuation of their usual learning process, according to Deutsche Welle. Estonia has eKool (e-School), a school management network with an average of 200,000 users per day, and Stuudium, a set of programs containing learning materials, assessment tools, messengers, etc. The situation in Germany is much worse than in Estonia, where 99% of the population has broadband internet. And it is not as digitized as Sweden or Finland, for example.
It is particularly difficult for teachers who do not have sufficient technical skills and have never encountered online learning before, as well as for universities that previously resisted innovation. Forced transition to digital education is painful for them, of course. Most learners also experience difficulties. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy-to-use online tools that can help educators conduct their online studies effectively. Still, this will require some support from the public.
The online education market in China is expected to reach $99.3 billion in 2023. According to a recent Forbes publication, the three leading eLearning companies collectively earned $3.2 billion after all students shifted to online classes. TAL Education, which became a partner in more than 300 public schools across China, grew 20% in February in response to expectations of strong growth. Stocks of the New-York-listed New Oriental and GSX Techedu rallied by 7.3% and 40%, respectively. Many educational companies offer their high-quality courses for free or at great discounts, as it is an opportunity to show the value of online learning in practice. The popularity of some online tools directly results in the rapid growth of their vendors' stocks, as we can see on the example of Zoom Video Communications (their video conferencing app has an unprecedented number of downloads). As we can see, eLearning offers many opportunities, one only needs to decipher them correctly.
The coronavirus outbreak for the whole world was an unexpected test, and our reality will change in many ways: many businesses have already suffered or will suffer. The mass transition to distance learning is a test for education systems around the world. On the other hand, this situation may become an additional impetus for eLearning. At least, investors have high hopes for it.
Do you want to use distance learning to develop your organization and are looking for the best solution? Contact us — we can offer you a ready-made system and are ready to customize it to your individual requirements and processes. We are always open to cooperation with you and will be happy to discuss any ideas and suggestions.