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OP-ED: An optimistic glance at the imminent future of education

  • Published at 07:59 pm August 28th, 2020
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Will online education persist post-pandemic? / BIGSTOCK

It is incumbent upon all of us to fully explore the potential of online education 

The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020 pressed a pause button on socio-economic development. It has also had a dramatic impact on education: Globally, almost all governments announced that schools were suspended, but crucially, learning wasn’t; because online learning is on.

The shift to online learning has affected everyone, from education authorities, schools and universities, to teachers, students, and parents. For the new school semester, live streaming has replaced the classroom as the main arena for learning. Blackboards have been swapped for screens, and teachers have put down the chalk and become knowledge hosts on students’ devices. 

Nowadays, online learning has become more and more common due to the coronavirus pandemic. As people mostly have to stay home, online learning has become more important than ever. The isolation caused by the pandemic can be an opportunity for all students if they use it to their advantage by working towards their goal with utmost dedication. 

Online learning is a saviour in these times, and by choosing to learn from the most qualified teachers in the most economical way, students can make the most of the time they have on their hands. Learning through videos, voice recognition, automatic corrections, and live exams are a few examples of the effectiveness of online learning. 

In a physical class, we would have to take notes on everything the teacher tells us, but in online classes, everything is recorded either on video or in writing. It also can connect people around the world for more experience sharing as well. 

Certainly, transitioning from offline education to online learning has given rise to a new crop of educational scenarios, which in turn create huge challenges. The nature of online learning means that teachers and students who occupy different physical spaces have to interact over the internet. As hundreds of thousands of students access online classes, the pressure on information systems has become greater than ever before: Issues such as blurred screens, video jitter, and the storage of a large number of learning courseware, documents, and materials. Without a powerful technical solution, overcoming these difficulties is not easy.

Cloud computing is one of the most talked-about solutions in the education sector now. Lesson plans, labs, grades, notes, PowerPoint slides -- just about anything digital that we use in teaching can be easily uploaded and accessed anytime. We can share some or all of the files that we have stored in cloud platforms. 

We can set up various student groups to work on projects and assignments in the cloud. Cloud computing will save multiple revisions and versions of a document so that we can chronologically trace back the evolution of an item. One of the greatest benefits of cloud platforms is scalability. Cloud computing has evolved into a very stable and reliable technology. 

Cloud services could be a cheaper option for schools and universities that face funding cuts, yet still have to invest in technology to improve learning standards. And lastly, security. Anything we store in the cloud usually requires authentication (ID and password, for example), so it is not easily accessible by anyone unauthorized. 

For example, with over two decades of experience in the ICT field, Huawei provides comprehensive ICT solutions, such as the education cloud, smart campus, and smart classroom solutions to promote the development of modern education. Smart campus supports teaching and research, optimizes service quality, and enables unified decision-making. 

The education cloud data centre is a distributed architecture to ensure data centre scalability, high availability, good experience, and easy management. The Smart Classroom provides interactive cloud classroom solutions which integrate an open education platform compatible with the most educators’ content and a simple interactive client APP on Huawei tablet which is convenient for teachers and student to use. 

In mid-March, all educational institutes in Bangladesh put a stop on physical attendance to classes to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and have not reopened since. Many schools in Bangladesh have already adopted regular online education. The first three primary requirements are digital devices, high-speed internet, and a platform. 

Uninterrupted high-speed internet is also a primary necessity for online classes as the users have to stream online videos or live videos. Recently, Huawei Bangladesh has partnered with Bijoy Digital to provide digital solutions to T&T high schools across Bangladesh to facilitate distance learning. 

The project formed under the partnership will aid the distribution of Huawei smart devices along with Bijoy Digital App and connectivity to pre-school to Class IV students. In the last three years, the Bangladesh government’s ICT division and Huawei jointly have provided free ICT training through Digital Buses to 21,238 female students in remote rural areas of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is heading towards a bright future if such collaborations get the necessary support from the ICT eco-system.

With this sudden shift away from the classroom in many parts of the globe, some are wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic, and how such a shift would impact the education sector worldwide. 

While many 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 smart model of education will emerge, with significant benefits. 

What has been made clear through this pandemic is the importance of disseminating knowledge across borders, companies, and all parts of society. If online learning technology can play a role here, it is incumbent upon all of us to explore its full potential.

Zhang Zhengjun is the CEO of Huawei Technologies (Bangladesh) Limited.

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