Coronavirus: Online learning is here to stay, says global education survey

Pupils, schools and governments want to address the digital inequalities and provide learning opportunities to all

A new global survey suggests online learning models are here to stay. Courtesy: Pearson

Online learning measures introduced during the coronavirus outbreak are likely to continue in a post-pandemic world, said a new global study.

But the digital divide needs to be closed for effective learning.

Easy access to computers and internet connectivity can help disadvantaged students, said respondents of the survey.

The study, based on a survey carried out by Pearson Education, a company that provides education content and assessment service to schools and corporations, said Covid-19 had created fundamental and permanent changes in education across the world.

Schools and universities are still grappling with difficult choices about how to proceed with online and in-person learning

The Global Learners Report polled over 7,000 people in countries including the US, the UK, Brazil, China, Canada, Australia and the UK.

A return to the pre-Covid days of learning solely in classrooms is quite unlikely, said the majority of the respondents.

Almost 90 per cent of people quizzed said they expect online learning to continue in primary, secondary and higher education.

“As learners adjust to a world forever altered by a pandemic, we felt that it was more important than ever that we hear their voices,” said John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson.

“They understand that the future of work and learning is now a dynamic mix of online and in-person experiences.

“Learners are resilient, so they are learning and moving forward in new ways to seize that opportunity, no matter what the future holds.”

More than 80 per cent of those surveyed said the pandemic would create new kinds of jobs, which made them rethink their career paths.

People must become more comfortable working remotely and in highly digital environments, said 90 per cent of the respondents.

There is a clear desire among pupils, schools and governments to address the digital inequalities and provide learning opportunities to all, said the survey.

“Schools and universities are still grappling with difficult choices about how to proceed with online and in-person learning,” said Mr Fallon.

“The true depth of social and economic inequality has been laid bare for the world to see.”

He said the wider picture was more hopeful than first thought.

“Despite all of this year’s upheaval, trust in education systems generally is on the rise,” he said.

“People are adapting to and accepting online learning.

“Workers are responding to economic uncertainty by bolstering their digital skills and turning toward practical education, like vocational training.”

But he warned the pandemic has created even deeper divisions between certain sectors of society, which need to be addressed.

“While learners are showing great resilience, they are also acutely aware that the pandemic is driving an even greater chasm in the digital divide,” he said.

“They also struggle with the affordability of education and they worry about health and safety as the school year begins.”

The report suggests there are conflicting views on what actions schools and universities should take ahead of the new academic year.

Schools in Abu Dhabi and Dubai will welcome back pupils to campuses after the summer break.

Parents who are worried about their children’s safety have been given the option to continue with e-learning.

The survey said while a majority of people, 77 per cent, believe reopening schools is crucial to the recovery of the global economy, opinions are divided on how to keep pupils and students safe on the campus.

Colleges and universities are risking the lives of students by reopening in the autumn, said 62 per cent of those quizzed while 84 per cent said a hybrid model may be the best option.

The survey also identified a strong desire to see schools and universities provide students with opportunities to learn new digital skills.

More than half of those who participated in the survey said their job roles have now changed since the pandemic began.

There is an urgent need to be taught new skills as a result, said 77 per cent of the participants.

These skills include being trained to work in virtual collaboration, without physical contact, and data analysis.