Will online education outlast the Covid pandemic?

“Workplaces are changing, and the classroom is starting to catch up.”

Whisper it quietly, “there might be an end in sight”.

Increasingly, as I walk along the streets of London, I can see a sense of relief, even happiness, on the faces of those I encounter. It might be that the UK vaccination campaign, that was as ambitious as it has been impressive, is finally bringing the Covid pandemic towards its conclusion. In the summer months Boris Johnson has indicated that we might be able to return to pubs, clubs and hairdressers.

But if Zoom socials are on the way out, what does that mean for online education? Libra Education CEO Oscar Hardy explains.

For the vast majority of local and international students studying in the UK, online learning has been a way of life for the past 12 months. I have witnessed first-hand the concerns of students and parents, many of whom ask how social isolation is likely to affect their development or that of their children.

At Libra Education we have provided all of our families with a simple guide to making the most of online learning. Education should not just minimise fears, however, it should prepare students for the challenges of the future. Naturally then we must ask ourselves what those challenges might be and whether online learning is suited to overcome them.

This is a question that sits in the forefront of my mind. Many workplace analysts label the rise of mechanisation, the increase of freelance work and the demise of the traditional management ladder as universal trends for the 21st century.

To counter this, our graduates must be digitally literate whilst being socially astute enough to navigate a loosely defined corporate governance structure.

To navigate this, good computer literacy and singular focus is important. According to a study by Santa Clara University, online or blended learners acquire the ability to focus for a longer period of time. Students must be able to overcome a plethora of online distractions and yet, if taught to do so, become more productive when working on a computer.

At the same time, collaboration platforms from Microsoft and Google (and many others) that have long been used in the workplace have found a new home in the classroom.

Companies from all industries rely on these tools and so students must leave schools and universities equipped to use them efficiently.

Online and blended learning introduces students to a way of working that is going to be far more common throughout their careers than sitting in a classroom ever could. Workplaces are changing, and the classroom is starting to catch up.

It was in light of these trends that, in 2017, we launched our online offering to students based both in the UK and overseas. It gave students access to the best tutors no matter where they were or in which time zone they operated. Prior to the pandemic we took this a step further and launched the fully accredited Libra Online School.

Students in an online classroom benefit from quicker information intake and better knowledge retention whilst regular testing can more easily be introduced than in a physical setting. Our teachers report that they have far more scope to manage their students’ attention by working together on a shared screen and correcting errors or misunderstandings in real time.

Many commentators argue that blended learning is the future of higher education. Technology can undoubtedly make learning easier and more engaging. 74% of lecturers are now confident in delivering online lectures and when this is supported by in-person learning or social activities we encourage a potent mix of productivity and personability in our classrooms.

So, is online learning truly here is stay? Worldwide trends are hard to stop once started. Indeed, it took a global pandemic to instigate a mass shift to digital classrooms and it’s hard to see anything reversing that trend now. The end might be in sight for Covid, but, whisper it, “I think online learning is here to stay”.

About the author: As founder and CEO of Libra Education, a global education adviser and tuition brand, Oscar Hardy has his finger on the pulse of the international education market and the demands of those students looking to access the world’s best institutions.