According to the U.S. Census Bureau, last year in the US nearly 96% of students reported some form of distance learning during COVID-19*. From the tech perspective, this has been a huge milestone reached. The way schools, universities, and institutions re-organise the education system in record time using different platforms is a total success. However, for many educators, psychologists, and experts this abrupt shift in the education sector is bringing more problems. So, if the scenario looks like online education is the future, how will the new education platforms work?
Over time, more and more schools began to modernize their timetable and adapt to difficult conditions. Online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, ClickMeetings, and Webex have gained enormous popularity. Thanks to the development of their functionality, the lecturers could not only display useful notes, presentations, or conduct tests but also create an interaction with most of the students tracking their progress. The result - most educative programmes in the world have completed 2020 courses using remote learning, including prestigious universities with complex programmes like medicine, engineering, or architecture.
Some analysts have predicted that the future is remote learning. However, from other angles, this type of educational system has not been tested 100%. It means that we do not know the whole scenario in terms of coming consequences for this generation to be out of classrooms and connected half of the day to the screen. What would be the effect if not one but many years of school are being taken in the same method? Do children get good personal development?
By March 2021, the Washington Post** took a comment from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers who said that “remote learning is a supplement, not a substitute, for in-school instruction”. He set the concept of “Zoom fatigue” that is hacking the learning. After hours and days using the same method -screen-, and at the same place -home-, this problem could cause real effects not only on health but also mental, emotional, and personal development. There is much research ahead and studies to analyse about the real effect of pandemic, isolation, and remote learning. However, we can't stop in time and deny that we must go back to physical schools as the only solution to make education effective. We, as humans, must again use our capabilities to adapt to new circumstances as in the past. For good or bad we need to rethink the education system. So, what’s next if the situation pushes us to use the learning from distance model as a main system? We need to adapt but we also need to set some quintessential principles for coming educational platforms. Those principles must be proved as effective and good for human development. As Bravelab, a software house with experience developing web platforms, we believe there are four key elements to keep in consideration for any online educative platform:
Principle one: personas
One of the biggest problems is to think that you can use the same application for any situation and event. For example, using Zoom is so common that people can use it for fitness lessons, to learn piano, study chemistry, languages or even for a project presentation. Education is so complex that making an universal app for all is a big mistake. We need to think in three layers at the moment to design a platform of this type:
- Area of study (maths, engineering, design, etc).
- Level of complexity (maths for primary school or maths for engineers).
- Age and cultural background.
There could be one platform, but this should be able to be adapted to different types of learning processes and backgrounds. Otherwise, it is better to build different apps according to the type of programmes.
Principle two: interface
Some platforms are not so easy to use, this makes the process of learning complex. On the other hand, other platforms are too simple that do not fulfill the needs of each educational gap. That is why a good interface requires good research. Here are some good principles to keep in mind in terms of e-learning interfaces:
- Make the student’s score clear and engaging.
- Integrate Gamification = Make learning fun.
- Include short videos in every step of the learning process.
- Less chat, more talking. Encourage students to record small messages in video or make quick calls to connect with other students.
- A dedicated area to organise material, lessons, or save content. It saves a lot of time and makes the learning process easier.
Principle three: psychology
Psychological issues matter, and matter too much. We encourage hiring a psychologist specialised in learning processes or educational topics. The mind’s behaviour is a key factor, and involving a specialist in this process could help to polish the interface, conduct efficient tests and provide useful feedback that will give you a powerful app or platform.
Principle four: integration
The Internet of things is exploding in the market. With hours ahead of learning in front of the screen the use of physical things can help to get out from the “Zoom fatigue”. Many startups and companies have developed physical devices able to be an extension from existing phones, tablets, and computers. This kind of concept could help to make learning more intuitive and attractive. At the same time, integrating the learning platform with other long-term experienced apps could help to enrich the experience and make this process something productive, even beyond the traditional video conferences.
When exactly will the pandemic end? Probably the end of this dark tunnel is near, but nobody is fully sure, it depends on many factors, and some are out of our hands. However, what we can see with no doubt, is that the e-learning process has rocketed exponentially during this time. This quick process of adaptation is a great lesson for everybody and teaches us to adapt faster than ever to changes if we want to survive. Learning in-person will always be unique, but not always possible. At the beginning of this big change, there should be some issues to solve, but it is possible if the next learning platforms, especially from institutions that lead long-term programmes can integrate innovative principles inside their learning apps. As we stated in this article, it is important to join other fundamental elements like psychology, personas, deep research, and intuitive interfaces to achieve a new type of education adapted to this time.
At Bravelab we have years of experience creating complex and advanced platforms. In terms of the education sector, our company has the leadership, tools, and resources to create sophisticated and efficient e-learning platforms that bring the user as the centre of attention and create really immersive experiences.
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