Welcome back to Stories from the New Normal – a curated collection of inspirational content to help you and your marketing thrive in the months ahead.

In this edition, we muse over the impact of the pandemic on education. What are the challenges we face? Is AI the future for online learning? Plus, we highlight where you can find some locally made face masks perfect for protecting ourselves and others.

 

How Covid-19 has changed education for ever

Globally there have been very few children untouched by the effects of COVID-19. While countries wrestle with different stages of infection rates, according to the World Economic Forum, billions of children have been affected by school closures due to the pandemic. This week in Australia, more than one in 10 Victorian secondary schools were closed on Monday after being linked to a recent coronavirus infection, according to the Department of Education.

With this sudden shift away from classrooms, we’re wondering how the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would impact the way children learn.

Even before COVID-19, classrooms had been adopting technology and online learning software through iPads, digital whiteboards and computers and private schools were better equipped than public schools. But this pandemic has exposed the fault lines in our education system and the ability for parents, teachers and students to adapt to such an enormous transformational shift.

In some respects, the education industry’s move to remote instruction mimics the move to working from home by many businesses like ours. Video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and WebEx are being used heavily as are learning management systems like Instructure’s Canvas, Blackboard and Google Classroom.

Challenges we face

One of the biggest challenges we face as architects of online learning platforms is the age range of our demographic. The interfaces we design for children in year one must repsond to a completely different set of needs to students in secondary school who are adept at reading, writing and learning online.

Solutions which are fit for purpose in terms of both the interface and content will have far higher engagement than those that don’t. Using avatars and characters brings emotional and social intelligence to online learning. The degree of character interactivity leads to a heightened realism which can improve the value of the learning and interaction.

Through our work on Project Firestorm for the NSW Rural Fire Service, we found that to harness the imagination of students, we needed to create characters. This enabled us to create a more engaging story and aid the user experience.

Project-Firestorm-Branding-creative-agency-newcastle

One of the companies leading the way with online learning in Australia is TALi Digital, a medical technology company which has just partnered with Google with their platform TALi Train. The platform is designed to help children between the ages of three and eight improve their focus, avoid distractions and fidgeting, improve learning, and prevent impulsive behaviour.

We also face the challenge of ensuring that the platforms used in schools are accessible to all, without limitations brought about by bandwidth or technology.

What does this mean for the future of learning?

While some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning – with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth, others believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge, with significant benefits.

Technology provides a huge opportunity to improve the education system whether students learn from home or in a classroom and AI will have a big role to play in shifting the current teaching model over the next decade as it matures.

We know AI can help categorise individuals into distinct learning buckets, which can provide content which better fits the learning style of the student.

MATHia is a great example of a platform using AI to improve maths learning for secondary students.

The platform adjusts to each student, delivering personalized learning paths – so it delivers different learning experiences to those students who are struggling and to those who need more challenging tasks. The platform provides personalised guidance and assessment that doesn’t only tell the students what they got wrong but also helps them understand why they got it wrong.

We have a long way to go but we’re on our way

As schools and universities plot their future online learning plans, hybrid arrangements and classroom activities, amid the uncertainty one thing is certain: online learning has an exciting future. There may be cultural shifts and digital divide issues to work through but COVID-19 has already pushed online learning mainstream and parents, schools and students need to catch up fast.

As parents experiencing weeks and weeks of home schooling we were given an unprecedented insight into what our children are taught, and their behaviour as learners. For many this experience has strengthened the bond between families and schools even though it was challenging and exhausting.

In lockdown, parents mastered the art of the meme – for some of us it felt like we’d been homeschooling for years!

To ensure our schools remain open we all need to do our bit to social distance and protect ourselves and others. Locally run Rundle Tailoring, in classic Rundle style, are making hand-made, cloth face masks created with fabric off-cuts from their main production line. They come in all kinds of sizes for children and adults with comfortable fabric ties. Order yours here!

Alie Jane is also selling double layer face masks with a cotton and linen blend through her Etsy Shop and Hunter Street store.

Stay safe and see you next time.

 

Dive into a brave new world with us as we uncover inspirational content to help you and your marketing thrive in COVID-19 Australia.

Stories from the New Normal: In this edition, we muse over the changing face of education.

 

Image courtesy of The New York Times.