Shock innovations: will education become online-only

Online technologies enabled the continuation of education at schools and universities despite the coronavirus-related restrictions. However, various education systems around the world are still reeling from the accelerated implementation of innovative technologies.
At the Open Innovations forum, experts from Italy and Singapore have described the opportunities and risks introduced by digitalization and how new technologies will be used in the post-pandemic world.
Paolo Landri, Senior Researcher, the Institute of Research on Population and Social Policies at the NationalResearch Council of Italy:
Covid-19 has become an enzyme that accelerated the digitalization in education. Italy had taken a serious blow from the novel coronavirus, and digitalization has worked as a tool for immunization.
The global education system is in shock now. A transition to online learning has become a certain mass experiment that allowed us to assess the effectiveness of the digital medium. Online learning tools, such as Google Classroom or Duolingo, have drastically increased their usage during the lockdown. Ditto Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom. In our view, the penetration of technology enables further consolidation of the education market.
Digital distribution channels have gathered a massive amount of data that may help to assess the progress of online learning. However, we do not know yet how to structure and analyze that data. There is not enough empirical data on the effectiveness of online learning either. We see both opportunities and challenges here. It is essential not to try and replace pedagogics with technology. Teachers must develop new methods, taking the new environment into account. The global pandemic allowed us to change the education system as a whole.
Chee-Kit Looi, head of Learning Sciences Lab of the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological Society, Singapore:
From the very first days of the pandemic, Singapore introduced some restrictions. In addition to offline learning, we already had a digital education platform. Nevertheless, the existing courses had to be expanded with new modules to move the process online fully.
We focus on making sure that students can work independently, show responsibility, and choose their own trajectory, not just complete tasks.
Our students have access to technology, but by the end of the year, each one will be issued at least one online learning device, paid for by the public.
Social contacts between teachers and students are vital, and they are not going away. But we are going to keep using the new technologies even after the pandemic. Online education supplements the traditional one well. It can also help the teachers improve their skills — they will be offered combined courses.

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