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Why online learning is here to stay even in a post-pandemic world: Current trends and scope in the future

The current pandemic has forced the transition to learning online, but the question is whether this is a temporary or permanent change. Experts believe that while there will still be a time and a place for in-person learning, online learning is here to stay. 

For at least a portion of the pandemic, millions of students have had to adapt to online learning, and that is just in China and Hong Kong. 

The pandemic forced the hands of schools of all levels, as it became unsafe to meet in person. This became even more complicated for university students who study in countries they do not live in, thanks to travel bans. For example, an estimated 100,000 Chinese students who study in Australia went home to celebrate the Lunar New Year and then were unable to return. 

This is the future

Those who are unsure about the future of online learning point out various complications. From teachers who are not used to the technology and forget to turn on their microphones to trying to learn in a home with background activity going on. 

However, these are all issues that we can overcome with time, and people are already beginning to adapt. 

There is also the fact that before the pandemic, there were mixed thoughts on online learning. As recent as 2018, people expected that online degrees from even prestigious universities would be less popular than campus-based degrees. 

What about socialisation? 

One of the common arguments against online learning is the lack of socialisation that students can engage in, something which is especially important for younger students. 

However, in a post-pandemic world, this will be less of a concern. When it is once again safe to interact with others, after-school activities can provide that socialisation. Sports, clubs, and other activities will easily provide alternative interactions. 

Even now, some students argue that they socialise more, although it is not in person. The lack of physical contact has led to a greater appreciation for any interaction, including messaging and video chats. 

Increasing connectivity

While there are still many areas where the internet penetration rate could be better, the expansion of 5G technology makes up for this. As this continues to expand, an increasing number of students will be able to learn anywhere and at any time. Even seemingly basic technology, such as TVs, can be enough, shown by China broadcasting primary school classes to provide access to 180 million students. 

For further evidence that online learning is here to stay, consider some of the potential changes to the educational system that the pandemic has already created. 

New solutions were created quickly

Those who argue that online learning is here to stay point to how quickly some educational institutions have adapted. The Education University of Hong Kong, for example, was able to switch to online learning within a matter of weeks. 

Schools teaching all levels have had to come up with similar solutions. Some combine face-to-face video instruction and shared reading materials. Even physical education courses found a way by having students record videos of training. 

The growth of public-private partnerships for education

The pandemic has led to an increase in partnerships between the public and private educational systems. Governments, educational professionals, telecom network operators, and others are all working together to reshape education and provide access to all students. 

Readtogther.hk, for example, has more than 60 educational organizations, media, entertainment industry professionals, and publishers and offers more than 900 educational materials. Other examples include Samsung working with Korean schools; Google and Microsoft working with American schools; and Alibaba, Ping An, and Tencent working with Chinese schools. 

The pandemic may very well force these once-small collaborations to grow, leading to far-reaching innovations that promote online learning. 

A potentially larger digital divide

As mentioned, the internet penetration rate is one of the challenges for online learning, and experts are concerned that this gap will lead to a growing divide in educational opportunities. Those in more developed areas with access to the internet, technology, and the necessary devices may thrive while less affluent families or entire regions may fall behind. 

To overcome this, we must focus on providing sufficient infrastructure and resilience for all who learn. In the meantime, online learning is here to stay for those who can access it, providing them with an advantage. 

 
 

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