The Covid-19 pandemic has had extensive impact on virtually every area of human endeavour, however, its influence in education may have the most lasting changes on the way knowledge is impacted. Even though the needs and demands of the  fourth industrial revolution has already been transforming the education sector over the past two decades, with technology allowing students to access education from anywhere at any time, the Great Lockdown changed all that, forcing the hands of everyone to adjust and embrace the Internet of Things (IoT).

With the outbreak of the pandemic and its resultant lockdowns across the world and educational institutions having to close their doors to stop the spread, it became imperative to embrace the only way learning could be had, through technology. Although it has been an adjustment for both students and teachers, technology is revolutionising education and paving a way towards a better future in learning so says Dr Andrew Hibling, CEO of EDGE Education. According to Hibling, technology is changing education in 3 fundamental ways: how we learn; where and when we learn; and our interaction with learning materials.

“Historically, we have learned by developing our thoughts and ideas through confirming them with our peers and those we perceived as teachers in the community”, says Hibling. “This was done by watching what was going on around us, listening to others, experimenting and having conversations which then helped us to confirm our knowledge.”

However, outside the brick and mortar classrooms and lecture halls of today, we still learn this way, he explains. “It should then be noted that if this is how we learn, it is crucial that formal education should pivot to be in line with this. For example, we are still relying on the one versus much approach, such as a teacher or lecturer in front of a classroom or lecture hall, instead of students learning from an abundance of sources that are readily available to them online.”

Hibling describes the practice of students going to the same class at a specific time to listen to one lecturer as an industrial model of education. “The classroom was the factory, the learning was the product, and the method of transferring exactly the same information to a large number of people was simply the most efficient way to scale up the production of education,” adding that “though it was arguably effective when measured against its purpose, it is not necessarily our natural way of learning, and its time is up.”

“COVID-19, however, has accelerated the future of education by forcefully removing institutional resistance to online learning, he points out. “Although the emergency remote learning or online schools that emerged as a response to the virus are a step in the right direction, they are still a far cry from what online, remote or ‘blended’ learning can be. At the moment the transfer of information is one-way and the recipient is passive, but effective knowledge formation should be an active, dynamic interaction within a group or community.”

According to Hibling, learning means transforming information into knowledge through interaction within a community with similar interests. “Now technology allows us to do this outside the boundaries of geography and time. We can teach and learn by engaging our peers and educators with purposely-designed content.”Such content has been developing over the past two decades and EDGE Education has seen a host of online education offerings become available, from short courses to postgraduate degrees.

“As the imperative for face-to-face learning is challenged, further blending of onsite and offsite learning is likely to emerge,” Hibling says. “But whether learners are on-or-offsite, they will still engage digitally. This means that communities will use technology to learn from and teach each other, ultimately driving effective communication forward into the future making learning community and inquiry-based.”

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