Remote learning in 2021 and beyond

Johannesburg – The world is fast evolving online, and there is a paradigm shift in the ways we do things, including how we educate our children.

It is therefore vital for teachers to have access to the tools they need to make the transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), says Micheal Goodman-Mareme of Via Afrika.

Over the past few centuries, we’ve been through three iterations of industrial revolutions. But now, firmly in the fourth, we are on the steepest learning curve of our lives as the technological evolution rapidly changes how we will live, work, play and, most importantly, learn.

Throughout time, however, the key and constant ingredient to any excellent education system has lain with the teachers who, with the right mindset, have taken the lead to empower themselves with whatever tools and content they’ve been able to access, in order to make a difference in the lives of those they teach.

There have been many times when this has been challenging. Most recently, we saw this in South Africa when Outcomes Based Education was introduced in the 1990s – and no less so today, with the technical skills and pedagogy that are now required to take teaching successfully online.

We do, of course, find ourselves in a highly unforeseen situation that – in just under a year – has accelerated the need for digital education tenfold, with schools having been closed for long periods and an uncertain and, very likely, social-distanced future ahead of us. The crucial factor right now is to ensure that education continues, in whatever classroom – real or virtual – that lies ahead in 2021 and beyond.

Of course, the online teaching experience is vastly different to the face-to-face, traditional classroom; no one can deny this, and fear of the unknown is always understandable.

But it takes courage to become a teacher in the first place. It is, after all, a critical leadership role that will influence the very formation of others for the rest of their lives. Therefore, drawing on the same courage that led teachers to teach initially, the learning environment is now encouraging them to believe in themselves once again – and to take the step into what may be a virtual classroom, but one in which they play no less of an important role. To quote American educator Salman Khan, of the Khan Academy: “I have never viewed technology as a replacement for the human experience. I viewed it as something that could liberate the human experience.”

There has of course been much international debate around how best to teach online and even how well it works, with many additional factors to now consider that teachers would not traditionally have had to take into account, even just a few years ago.

For example, will teachers now best deliver lessons live, with teaching being synchronous? Or will they pre-record these and provide them in an asynchronous fashion for learners to access whenever the time is best for them? And do learners have access, in the first place, to good internet connectivity that would enable them to be taught online at all?

These are the questions we have been interrogating ourselves as Via Afrika. Having made resources available to teachers, learners and parents for a number of years, we’ve now expanded our focus. We’ve met the challenge to provide insight overall not only into the digital world, but with specific emphasis on training teachers both online and face-to-face through a “Teaching Online” course offered as one of the options, via our Digital Education Academy.

In many ways, we are all encountering a new online world with the same uncertainties around to what extent our lives will be disrupted. For the learners who are our future, they are now being educated towards jobs that often do not even yet exist. If teachers are to continue providing the critical leadership role to learners that they always have in our society, we need to support them in whatever way we can to make the journey one they can travel with confidence.

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