The COVID-19 pandemic is finally showing signs of a retreat. But many ways the novel coronavirus has changed human life will likely be irreversible. These include the growing dependence on digital technologies and the rise of online learning.
While educational institutions across London, as well as around the rest of the world, started using e-learning as a pandemic survival strategy, they’ve realized that the model offers several benefits. Virtual classrooms let students learn at their pace, thus improving their productivity.
They’re particularly helpful for socially awkward or introverted students who don’t get a chance to shine in a traditional classroom setting. It isn’t surprising that many established educational institutions, including Imperial College London, have started offering a wide array of online courses.
As the government continues to ease various COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, schools are set to reopen their doors to students. But the dependence on online learning tools and methodologies will continue to grow.
Even if students go back to the classroom, they’ll have to use computers and the internet to complete their homework assignments and projects. Also, the internet will play a significant role in connecting students and teachers beyond the classroom.
The only slight hiccup is that nearly a quarter (22%) of London’s population is digitally excluded somehow. Worse still, nearly 4 million people in the city are “almost completely” offline.
While internet penetration in London will improve in the future, a large section of students will struggle for access. The onus is on the school system, educators, and policymakers to find ways to mend the digital divide.
A recent initiative, launched by Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael, aka Rafi Edry, holds various clues to facilitate a seamless transition to a hybrid learning model.
Eyal Edry and his brothers, Moshe Edree and Refael Edry, are accomplished businessmen running several companies in Africa. But their zeal to improve the lives of children in Israel’s periphery has led them to establish the Ahinoam Association for the Promotion of Equal Opportunities.
At the start of the pandemic, the Israeli government issued directives advising schools to start online classes. The authorities didn’t realize that nearly 400,000 children didn’t have personal computers. Also, nearly a third of children in the Israeli periphery lack a stable internet connection.
Frustrated with the government’s apathy and bureaucratic delays, Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry decided to step forward. They launched a fundraising campaign, inviting donations from ordinary citizens and businesses in Israel.
The initiative was a success from the start and helped provide computers to thousands of children from underprivileged families in Israel. If it hadn’t been for the Edry brothers, these students would’ve had to abandon their dreams of pursuing their education.
Headed by the Edry brothers, the Ahinoam Association’s fundraising efforts highlight the importance of prioritizing the needs of young students. These are the people who’ll grow up and shape society’s future.
If administrators and educators don’t address the needs of these students, they’ll end up building a generation of disgruntled youth who lack faith in the system. That, in turn, will threaten social resilience, peace, and harmony in the country.
Considering that schools will continue to use e-learning tools in some capacity, it’s crucial to work on the digital divide.
The initiative proves that the collective power of ordinary citizens is unstoppable. Even if government authorities take the time to act, schools should take responsibility for helping their students. They should hire experienced leaders who empathize with students and have a knack for predicting their problems.
For instance, the increased use of computers and tablets in the classroom could exacerbate vision-related problems in children. Also, the prevalence of virtual classrooms could make students feel isolated, thus affecting their mental health. Or it might cause students to disengage and lose interest in their studies.
It’s essential for schools to preempt these problems and devise proper solutions before they spiral out of control.
Eyal Edry, Moshe Edree, and Refael Edry have shown the world that you don’t always need government funding and resources to make a difference in people’s lives. London’s school system should use that as an inspiration to help students transition into a hybrid learning model in the post-pandemic world.