5 Global Perspectives on the Future of Digital Learning

Abbey Smith - Author
Abbey Smith, Katja Laingui, Hiroto Shibayama, Andrea Wood, Kristin Harrison and Carmenza Montañez
06/10/20
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Quick Take: How has COVID-19 changed the way we teach and assess students? See what education professionals from around the world have to say about how they’ve adapted and what they anticipate for the future.

Quarantine has forced many academic institutions to create and deliver meaningful digital learning experiences that offer the same value and effectiveness that would traditionally be taught face-to-face in a classroom. E-Learn recently sat down with education professionals from around the globe to hear their insights and best practices for moving to a world of digital learning.

Meet the Interviewees

Katja Laingui is the Education Operations Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Hiroto Shibayama is the Manager for the IT Strategies Division at Waseda University in Japan.

Andrea Wood is the Principal at New Directions College in the United Kingdom.

Kristin Harrison is the Distance Learning Administrator at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in the United States.

Carmenza Montañez Torres is the Vice Chancellor of Virtual Education at the University of Boyacá in Colombia.

Abbey Smith - Author

How is Open LMS helping your institution during these difficult times?

Photo of Katja Laingui, Education Operations Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Katja Laingui: We were in the process of setting up our Open LMS account when a hard lockdown was imposed in South Africa. This forced us to completely pivot our offerings into online versions. We had always wanted to enter the eLearning sphere, but for very different reasons, and COVID-19 accelerated the whole process. 

We usually run in-person courses on marine science and environmental literacy at the Two Oceans Aquarium. We have been able to convert most of our courses into e-versions with great success. It has certainly been a learning curve for all of us—figuring out all the functions of Open LMS and adjusting to teaching online—but Open LMS has allowed us to expand our reach significantly. We now have children taking part in our courses from all over South Africa and internationally.

Hiroto Shibayama: Our university decided to put all of its courses online, which required us to bring approximately 65,000 students and approximately 10,000 courses fully online. 

Open LMS is a digital learning environment that enables Waseda University to not only boost learner experience and faculty engagement, but also support our university education by bringing all courses online.

Andrea Wood: We are working closely with Open LMS to reshape our virtual learning environment for our adult students. COVID-19 has forced the pace at which we apply digital transformation to the way we deliver learning to adults. Open LMS is supporting the College to test and publish a better virtual learning environment in which our learners can access virtual classrooms, forums, work packs, web links and learning materials, all from their own homes. Open LMS has advised us on how best to utilize our virtual learning environment (VLE) and has supported the need for moving at a fast pace.   

For us, this means that we can offer learning continuity to our learners, many of whom are socially isolated and at risk of unemployment or the effects of long-term unemployment.

Photo of Kristin Harrison, Distance Learning Administrator at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in the United States.

Kristin Harrison: Open LMS has been very responsive, helpful, and resourceful during these difficult times. I would not expect anything less because, before COVID-19, they have always had excellent customer service. Anytime Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute needs support, Open LMS always goes above and beyond our expectations. When we submit support tickets, they are always eager to lend a helping hand and ensure that the issue has been resolved quickly. Members of the support team often send emails or make phone calls to check in and make sure everything is going well.  

Also, their community website has been a wonderful resource for information. On this site, customers can share ideas, respond to others, and ask questions. The Open LMS team takes the time to read and respond to all questions, comments, and ideas that are presented in the community site. This site has been valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic because it has given me the opportunity to connect with others from other college campuses, learn, and implement strategies that are working for them.

If I could give a “Vendor of the Year” award, I would give it to Open LMS!

Photo of Carmenza Montañez Torres, Vice Chancellor of Virtual Education at the University of Boyacá in Colombia.

Carmenza Montañez: The Open LMS platform enriches learning experiences, challenges, uncertainties, and lessons—which has allowed us to expand the field of action for both teachers and students. This has led to a much more enriching experience, given the importance of innovating while sharing knowledge. 

Therefore, for times like the ones we live in today, where a pandemic changes the paradigms of teaching, these virtual learning platforms become critical for institutions and everyone who is interested in learning how to overcome intercultural, international, national, and regional barriers in order to make learning more flexible in any area.

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Abbey Smith - Author

From your perspective, how will education change after these difficult times?

Photo of Katja Laingui, Education Operations Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Katja Laingui: Education has already changed and will never be the same again. While most may think that once this pandemic is “over,” everything will go back to normal, this is not the case. There will be other pandemics and environmental problems that will force education, and other sectors, to rethink how things can and should be offered. 

Whilst eLearning is a safe option in a pandemic context, it is not accessible to all and that will be one of the major challenges that needs to be addressed. In a country like South Africa, with high levels of inequality, quality education is already not accessible to many children. The pandemic and the lockdown have highlighted this inequality further, since most children here have not had formal education since late March 2020. Using eLearning is a wonderful way to make education accessible to more people, however only if all sectors of society work together to make the access as equitable as possible.

Hiroto Shibayama: For some classes, we have found that not only does the class work online, but it’s also more effective. We’ve also found that the know-how of content creation, such as how to speak and present content that is suitable for online, is different from that of a classroom class. Additionally, even teachers who were previously disinterested in online classes were able to understand the features of online classes.

In the future, I think the use of LMSs, Zoom, etc., will be a common practice in all classes. All classes have started to go online at the same time from 2020, and I think there will be a big difference in the quality of education between those classes that are able to adapt to the changes and those that are not.

Andrea Wood: The dependency on virtual learning environments will be much greater. I believe our current and future learners will expect to practice learning online, see a reduction in face-to-face tutorials, and spend much more time using digital platforms to communicate with their tutors. As a service, we need to adapt to this quickly to ensure our learners have the best learning experience that enables them to succeed.

Photo of Kristin Harrison, Distance Learning Administrator at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in the United States.

Kristin Harrison: I believe education will change due to COVID-19 because these difficult times have pushed individuals, instructors, students, and campuses to lean on and adapt to distance learning in one shape or form. 

Many schools across the world will continue to make sure there is a virtual option for students. Also, through these difficult times, I have witnessed educators lean on one another’s strengths for ensuring they are creating the most amazing courses for their students. 

More individuals working in education will be more open to distance learning. Some who believe their course would never be appropriate in an online or hybrid model have been successful in figuring out how to make this happen for their students and will continue to excel using these methods. 

Education will change, but the changes that are occurring are positive because educators around the globe are becoming open to new trends in teaching and learning. Through this experience, education will become stronger for not only students and instructors, but also administrators. 

Photo of Carmenza Montañez Torres, Vice Chancellor of Virtual Education at the University of Boyacá in Colombia.

Carmenza Montañez: The main changes will be reflected when making a comparison between the traditional methods we know and the new ones we are discovering. That is, when everyone leaves the status quo and begins to make a checklist with changes resulting from the pandemic, they will find that these changes and new use of technologies should remain because they create a better lifestyle or reduce fears. Users will no longer be afraid to embark on new projects or use new resources because their adaptability will perhaps be done in a shorter time than we were used to. 

Likewise, one of the significant aspects that has changed in these times is knowledge, which is why it must be rethought in other ways relating to teaching and learning, where: The main challenge for teachers and students will be narrating through the construction of stories, science and changing methodologies. This will allow us to build ourselves as human beings—to build new pedagogical and research methodologies to contribute to solving problems.

Are you an education professional? We’d love to hear how you’re adapting to post-COVID teaching. Get in touch now and share your experience on E-Learn.

Katja Laingui is the Education Operations Manager at Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa.

Hiroto Shibayama is the Manager for the IT Strategies Division at Waseda University in Japan.

Andrea Wood is the Principal at New Directions College in the United Kingdom.

Kristin Harrison is the Distance Learning Administrator at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in the United States.

Carmenza Montañez Torres is the Vice Chancellor of Virtual Education at the University of Boyacá in Colombia.

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