Education’s Opportunity to Shine

Home Education

Coronavirus and education’s watershed moment

Peter West

Coronavirus has forced online learning and teaching to become a priority. Education now has the opportunity to get it ‘right’ so that

  • Learning continues for all students
  • Teachers are seen as responsive and flexible, and thus respect for teachers grows
  • Parents build faith in a capable and competent education system
  • Educational organisations are viewed as modern, resilient, relevant organisations
  • Education leaders are seen as competent leaders rather than just managers

The alternative is

  • Students ‘lose’ months of education
  • Teachers are seen as lock stepped into the past
  • Parents lose faith in a system that doesn’t seem to provide what they need in a stressful, uncharted time
  • Educational organisations are viewed as past-focussed organisations that haven’t been able to change with the times
  • Educational leaders are viewed as managers rather than leaders, unable to cope with changing times.

There is a lot at stake.

Does it work? Can it work now?

Does technology-enhanced learning work? This question has dogged education for years. Debates have raged about whether laptops in the classroom, online learning environments and technology-enhanced learning (such as blended, flipped and online learning) ‘work’. There have been many who suggested the education system wasn’t broken and thus didn’t need ‘fixing’…or changing.

Yet the 21st Century has now forced change. It is essential and unavoidable. Those educational organisations that have been preparing over the past decade or more are now vindicated and will reap the benefits of foresight and leading the evolution of education.

When the questions will disappear

When education gets it ‘right’ and when education shows that technology-enhanced and online learning can be effective, the questions about whether it ‘works’ will disappear.

Thus, education and individual organisations can exit the coronavirus crisis with an enhanced reputation, proud of their efforts and confident in proven success. This is the ideal endpoint.

The alternative is education that has ‘tried a technology-enhanced solution’, but has demonstrated in a very public way, with much parent and media attention, that it ‘doesn’t work’.

Has someone made it work?

Yet if some say that it ‘doesn’t work’, all that is needed is one educational organisation that has ‘made it work’ well and any other organisation that hasn’t been effective in this area, or that says it can’t work, will be revealed for what it is…an underperformer. It will no longer be that ‘it doesn’t work’; it will be that the particular organisation didn’t make it work.

When the paradigm shifts

In the same way that the Wright brothers had to make only one heavier than air flight in their homemade plane in 1903 to show that heavier than air flight was possible and that balloons weren’t the future, we need only one ‘traditional’ educational organisation to succeed at whole campus online learning to show what is possible.

It took only 7 years from the Wright brothers first flight until the first commercial flight[1] and 11 years for the first passenger airline flight[2].

Once the paradigm shifts for one, no matter what the industry, it shifts for all. It has already shifted for many industries and professions. Disruption is everywhere, yet education has remained relatively unchanged. But now the paradigm shift has been imposed by external factors.

Leadership

We live in interesting times. Let’s hope that the leadership of educational organisations ‘steps up’ to provide the support, resources and training that our hard-working (and now even more stressed than usual) teachers need in these trying times. Let’s hope that they find the ‘real’ experts to guide and nurture the change, and to support teachers with the new and unfamiliar approaches to education required in the current crisis.

Let’s hope that education continues to evolve once this crisis passes and we are never caught out again.

[1] https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/wright-brothers/online/age/1910/commercial.cfm

[2] https://www.space.com/16657-worlds-first-commercial-airline-the-greatest-moments-in-flight.html

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Peter West
Peter West currently leads a Learning Technologies Team that explores new learning technologies for a leading VET organisation. Previously he was Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College on the Gold Coast, Australia. He has been leading learning organisations in all aspects of technology-enhanced learning for over twenty years. He can be contacted at peterwest_@outlook.com and www.linkedin.com/in/peter-west-elearning
Peter West

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