Power of edtech in times of Coronavirus

UNESCO reports 290 million students across 22 countries will be affected due to Coronavirus; hence, it proposed Edtech learning as one of the rescue plans for students

| MARCH 19, 2020, 03:53 AM IST


The Government’s directive to people to refrain from indulging in a gathering of large number of people and that educational institutions has resulted in complete shutdown of classroom operations till the end of this month. The government diktat has suspended class work and examinations until March 31, 2020. Faculty and students have been adviced against organising any event on the campus that requires a gathering of people.

UNESCO report stated that over 290 million students across 22 countries will be affected due to the spread of the Coronavirus. Hence, it had proposed Edtech learning as one of the rescue plans for students. Though the above decision has been taken to preclude any risks to students and their families and to the faculty and employees of the institutions, there is no indication of what happens to the portion that could not be covered?

Regardless of the official advisory on what ought to be done, many educational institutions have already considered the delivery of lesson content remotely. Put very simply, the Covid-19 outbreak has given them more compelling reasons to take a long hard look at leveraging the power of the Edtech.

The British-based ‘Century’ is giving training and access to its platform, to individualize learning to 50 schools in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and the UAE. Teachers from Italy and China, Hong Kong to Kuwait and Bahrain have also got themselves into online learning, regardless of whether they feel confident using the tools or whether they believe the tech platforms and tools are a productive way to learn.

So far international companies like 99math, Lingvist, Clanbeat, Speakly.me, ALPA Kids, and DreamApply have joined the initiative and are offering their tools for free. ‘Google for Education’ has decided to provide free upgrades to its G-Suite for education productivity apps including its video conferencing systems for the remainder of the school year.

With this Black Swan moment, online education is likely to be a big hit with schools shut, portions missed with lapse of time and parents looking out ways to keep children meaningfully engaged. Edtech firms like LidoLearning, Gradeup, Byju’s, Vedantu, Coursera, Unacademy and Toppr have made similar announcements and this gives students to compare similar products on offer. As students will make their way through the content, the platform would learn their knowledge choices, skills, pace of learning, and gaps.

Back in India, private universities have moved all courses to online mode using apps like Blackboard, Microsoft Teams, Nearpod, Quizlet, Kahoot, Firefly, Edmodo, Padlet, Flipgrid, Zoom sharing content of ideas, images, videos, and other means making sure that learning is happening. Accordingly, Shiv Nadar University has moved part of the planned teaching-learning for this period to online mode wherein instructors send students course-specific instructions remotely and put in their best effort to ensure the learning outcomes are not compromised while the Bengaluru-based Trio World Academy will commence distance learning through its ERP.

Even LEAD School, which has over 800 partner schools across India announced that it will initiate LEAD School@Home program from March. As per the information available, teachers will upload audio-visual links, worksheets and homework on ERP which can be accessed by the students by clicking on the tab. Through Webinars and educational technology like Edmodo, the schools will share material, feedback and other assignments for crucial subjects such as Math, Science, English and Humanities.

India’s largest technology platform Byju’s has sniffed an opportunity to offer the masses to sample their product since lakhs of students miss school, and has announced to provide free content until April. Interestingly Byju’s and Unacademy among the above have announced their rounds of funding. As per the Byju’s offer students from classes 1 to 3 can access Math and English lectures and those in Classes 4-12 can take lessons on Math and Science concepts on the app.

Internshala has announced free access to its e-learning platform, Internshala Trainings. Students can learn a number of skills in programming, data science, business, design and creative writing etc on Internshala Trainings through its short duration online training programs. Accordingly, any student enrolled in a regular classroom program (schools, bachelors, diploma, masters, or higher) in a government recognized school, college or university (public or private) in Kerala, Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh region are eligible to enroll.

Coursera has stepped forward to provide impacted Indian universities with free access to its course catalog through ‘Coursera for Campus’. Through this platform, all universities can provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3800 courses and 400 specializations from Coursera’s portfolio until July 31, 2020. After this date, they plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments until September 30, 2020.

Edtech major Aakash Educational Services Limited (AESL) through its subsidiary, Meritnation, has announced that it will provide special free live classes for students which could be accessed sitting at home. The classes will be held for students from Class 1 to Class 12 and those appearing for special exams like JEE/NEET etc. This Edtech firm has also decided to conduct live classes for students appearing for above exams at no charge.

In the wake of above developments, the UK’s Trade Commissioner for the Middle East says Edtech made a powerful remark. The Commission says that ‘Edtech is here to stay, and will continue to play a key role long after the Coronavirus crisis’. It is a fact that the scare has made all move an inch closer to technology. If all of us have better internet bandwidths, educational institutions can get their act together, and offer us courses that can be completed at our speed and convenient time. With the students and teachers grounded the trend is to consume more social media, and try out different modes of apps using virtual communications. Someday, sometime in the near future, this rich experience will also help teachers to decide what online learning tools work for them and reach out in a much better way to their students.

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