What can we learn from corona-virus situation? #4 – The future of on-line education

The impact of the pandemic on the education systems across the globe is immense for numerous reasons. On one hand, most countries in the world have closed down schools and moved to some type of online learning which will surely impact the quality of learning but at the same time impacts the home lives of teachers, students and their parents.

We @NEPC hope to contribute to the discussion with this thematic series that brings different perspectives on the current situation by some of the NEPC experts. We asked them a few questions that will help us in shedding a light on this unexpected situation and that will help us in drawing some reflections from it.

In this issue, we had a conversion about the future of on-line education with Eve Mägi and Meeli Murasov, policy analysts at the think tank PRAXIS – Estonia, and their guests.

Estonian government recently offered its digital education solutions for free to support other countries’ education systems during the COVID-19 crisis… After this large scale “imposed” experimentation, will on-line education be developed further? In which direction?

Following the declaration of the state of emergency to prevent the spread of COVID-19, schools in Estonia switched to the remote-learning system on 16 March 2020, which increased the number of users of e-learning platforms by ten folds. The smooth transfer was ensured by regular use of national electronic homework diaries/communication points eSchool and Stuudium by all schools. Investment for good internet connection, development of electronic study materials and development of teachers´ digital skills benefited the situation.

The current crisis has great significance as a litmus test for the Estonian education system, showing how and in which direction our e-learning systems need to be developed so that they are as convenient as possible for teachers, students and parents who help their children study at home (Heli Aru, Information Technology Foundation for Education)

During the COVID-19 crisis, Estonia started to offer its digital education solutions for free to support other countries´ education systems. The Estonian example has encouraged also other Nordic countries to make their educational technological solutions available for schools and students. Exchange of expertise and solutions will definitely increase future collaboration at all levels: the state and private sector, stronger student voice and closer home-school-community relationship. It paves the way for educational innovation and technological solutions: there are more than 40 companies focusing on educational technology in Estonia. As e-learning demands additional focus from parents and teachers it is crucial to explore its impact on other areas such as health, labour market, social sphere. On the other hand, as parents are more involved in the study process, most likely their understanding of their children´ studies has enhanced and they have a better overview of the content, process and competencies. The critical question of how remote-learning with increased online time and changed user patterns influence students and their socio-emotional well-being needs addressing in the future.

In order to support modelling of our school’s remote learning programme, we collected structured feedback from the parents, students and teachers and have regularly analysed and modified our practices. (Kristi Aria, Principal, Tartu International School)

Remote-learning system is not very complicated, both students and teachers have adjusted well. I feel that my pattern of using the computer has changed. If earlier the main purpose was to find information, then now I apply a much more diverse range of skills from formatting to content creation. It is positive that our school shared laptops for all students who did not have them to use during the remote-learning period or who would have been in a position to share the computer with brothers or sisters. So all in all, I think I am doing great, although I realise that situation is more complicated for teachers: they use multiple platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet. Moodle. Most likely teachers are going to use a variety of platforms and other e-resources more frequently also after the remote-learning period as they have developed their digital skills and experiences success that improves user confidence (16 years old student)

I don’t really like the remote-learning system as at home, I need to figure it all out by myself while at school, teachers are there to guide me. Teachers are using many different platforms which I had not experienced before. Therefore, my Mum has to help me sometimes if I do not understand what I have to do. There are a lot of homework tasks every day. We do not get grades during this period, but teachers are providing feedback with explaining what we did well and what needs improvement [formative assessment]. My digital skills have improved, and I like typing better than handwriting. (9 years old student)

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