Reimagining education in an unsteady state

The coronavirus pandemic forces us to re-evaluate what students require from educators and how educators can shape greater elements of online learning, says Seth Finegan, UK CEO of Informed Solutions

March 2020 will be remembered as the month when almost all the world’s educational facilities stopped ‘business as usual’ and closed their doors. This dynamic change comes at a time when discussion and debate about jobs of the future and skills required for tomorrow come sharply into focus. According to a World Economic Forum report, 65% of primary-school children today will be working in jobs that don’t yet exist. As part of these seismic changes, education needs to change to better prepare our young learners for what the future holds.

Putting students and teachers first

The first challenge we face revolves around innovating in times of extreme change – enhancing the educational systems, services and infrastructure that meet the needs of teachers and students right now. For a new era of democratised education, where access and availability for all is a driver, what are the biggest challenges for a mass of students who are learning solely online for the first time? What are the challenges teachers will face, now and in the future?

The answer to the majority of these questions lies in effective user-centred design of systems and services for a hugely varied user base, all of whom are operating in either stretched or unusual circumstances.

Such a complex landscape can only be tackled through intimate understanding of the challenges and iterative and agile shaping and adoption of digital services that enhance both teaching and learning techniques.

The development of new digital services will improve engagement with prospective teachers. Designed well, they will help attract the talent that will power effective, improved education for all.

The development of new digital services will improve engagement with prospective teachers

Unearthing critical soft skills

The current challenges have unearthed adaptability and resilience as critical characteristics (and skills) for future generations entering work. Aside from the technical skills required for a digital future, some of the most important skills employers will be looking for will be collaboration and communication and the ability to work as part of a team. Additionally, alongside IQ, emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy will be sought-after skills for workforces.

COVID-19 illustrates how globally interconnected we are – there are no longer such things as isolated issues and actions. Successful people in the coming decades will understand this interrelatedness and navigate across boundaries to embrace their differences and work in a truly collaborative way.

Continued investment in technology-enhanced learning

Educational institutions are now compelled to harness education technology tools to create content for remote learning. The potential is there for teachers to teach differently and with greater flexibility, which needs to map against students learning differently, but effectively and successfully. Technology-enhanced learning will help teachers keep up with the increasing demand from lifelong students. AI-based learning tools developed in the past decade have incredible potential to personalise education. Additionally, given equality of access, this technology has the ability to reduce societal gaps for future students.

Greater support for teachers

At a time when the government is investing in teacher training and recruitment, it makes sense for greater emphasis to be placed on the power of technology and its potential to significantly impact educator wellbeing, but the platform of success must be built on user-centred design.

Now more than ever, help and assistance is required for educators. Poor experiences of technology through lockdown will make it harder for the education sector to invest in technology for the future. We don’t think anyone has all the answers and through the new positive and negative experiences that will undoubtedly come, it’s vitally important that teachers are supported to quickly learn what does and doesn’t work.

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