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Digital learning will be embedded in teaching practices in the future: OUP Report

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The Covid-19 pandemic has paved the way for a hybrid model in education, combining digital and traditional methods of teaching and learning—but governments need to act so that progress from the past year is not lost, according to the latest report from Oxford University Press (OUP) released on April 8.

The report, Education: the journey towards a digital revolution, captures insights from experts across seven markets—the UK, Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Spain, and Turkey—as well as from hundreds of teachers globally, and extensive secondary research. With the pandemic affecting more than 1.7bn students worldwide over the past 12 months, the report analyses how teachers, students, and parents adapted to new ways of delivering education, and will continue to utilize digital learning tools and resources to shape educational practice in the future. 

In India, compared to other countries, respondents felt that the transition to online learning was done rather well, scoring 3.3/5. However, a major issue identified by respondents was unequal access to digital learning devices, as well as a lack of internet connectivity and little familiarity around the tools required to facilitate online learning. The majority of respondents in India (71%) also felt that shifting to online has been detrimental to wellbeing. The priority for the government is to provide more funding, as well as addressing connectivity issues, particularly in rural areas.

When asked about the challenges that learners/ educators may have experienced in India since the start of the pandemic, the top ranked issues were:

  • A lack of access to digital educational resourcesfor all sections of the population
  • Devices being shared with multiple family members
  • Increased need forteacher familiarity or understanding of tools and platforms

Majority of the respondents expressed a view that the shift to digital learning raised concerns about learner wellbeing in the sector/market

  • The top 3 issues identified as having a negative impact on digital learning are:
    • Socio-economic barriers
    • Lack of professional development opportunities for teachers
    • Disruption/ uncertainty in day-to-day life caused by the pandemic
  • When asked what steps the government should take to support digital learning, the top answers were:
    • Support for improving connectivity
    • Increased funding for technology
    • More professional development opportunities for teachers/ professors

While there were clear regional trends surveyed, there were also similarities across all other markets that the report covered:

  • 98% of OUP’s experts said they believe digital learning will be firmly embedded in teaching practices in the future.
  • The factors deemed to have impacted the most on the effectiveness of digital learning were socio-economic barriers (79%) and uncertainty in day-to-day life caused by the pandemic (74%).
  • Long-term impacts of the pandemic such as the digital divide and the impact on wellbeing need to be addressed; 70% of OUP’s experts concluded the shift to digital learning has raised concerns about student wellbeing, and 85% believed that learners from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen behind their more advantaged peers.
  • Curricula needs to evolve so that learners develop the core skills needed to navigate future uncertainty and become ‘digitally fluent.’

 

Drawing on the insights, OUP is urging governments and educators globally to address the challenges brought about by a year of educational disruption and ensure that positive developments from the past year are not lost. Key recommendations include:

  • Governments should actively collaborate and learn from teachers and students and use their recent experiences to inform future policy and curriculum development.
  • Governments need to work with institutions to address the digital learning divide, not just now, but for the future too.
  • Wellbeing must be considered as part of education policy as digital becomes increasingly embedded in education­—including support for teachers and parents.
  • Curricula should evolve to provide learners with the skills they need to be both digitally fluent, and adaptable to whatever the future holds.

Speaking about the research, Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press, said: ‘The coronavirus pandemic has, unsurprisingly, prompted a rapid increase in the adoption of digital learning. As we start to reimagine what education may look like in the future, it is imperative that the government—and indeed, governments all over the world—learn from those who have been on the frontline, delivering and receiving learning. We have a huge opportunity to learn from all our experience to develop education systems that will work for both local and global society.’

Full recommendations

  • Governments should actively collaborate and learn from teachers and students and use their recent experiences to inform future policy and curriculum development.
  • Governments need to work with institutions to address the digital learning divide, not just now, but for the future too.
  • Wellbeing must be considered as part of education policy—including support for teachers and parents.
  • Curricula should evolve to provide learners with the skills they need to be both digitally fluent, and adaptable to whatever the future holds.
  • We must not assume a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to digital learning and must consider individual circumstances.
  • Teachers must be brought along the digital journey and supported via professional development.
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