The 21st century pandemic has overtaken the world by storm. The pandemic has not only forced a massive digital transformation in the corporate world but has had critical implications on many other sectors including education at the top of the list.
How many times have you heard the statement “In spite of all technological advancement, the world of learning and education is still pretty much the same”? Well not anymore. In an era of lock-downs and social distancing, education, at all levels all over the world, had to switch to an online learning environment in order to secure the continuation of students’ learning. Needless to say, this change didn’t occur without incurring huge capital, financial, training, and psychological costs.
According to Mckinsey, the switch to virtual learning, which has saved education for many academic institutions, has also widened the gap of access to education between the privileged and vulnerable communities. An increasing number of international and private schools brag about adopting the state-of-the-art remote teaching and learning technology and heavily investing in their human resources to operate these tools seamlessly. On the other hand, many children continue to be deprived from the right of education as the pandemic persists.
e-Learning in a glimpse
The term e-Learning or eLearning, also known as online or virtual learning, was introduced towards the end of the 20th century. Thanks to the increased penetration of computers and the internet, the world witnessed a rapid growth of online information and elearning tools. One of the early adopters of e-learning were businesses which utilized online courses to bring their employees up-to speed with the needed industry knowledge and skills. Another pool of beneficiaries consisted of individuals who made use of elearning resources to make up for lost school or university education to find employment. Moreover, in the past decade, the world experienced a surge in the quantity and diversity of available online courses, which were leveraged by university students and young professionals to strengthen their skills in specific areas that witness increased job-market demand. Strengthening their 21st-century skills including technology development, innovation, coding, and entrepreneurship skills to name a few, allows youth to have better job opportunities.
In 2019 the eLearning market was worth 171 billion USD and is expected to reach 375 billion USD by 2026 based on a research report by Global Market Insights. The rate of growth of online learning has doubled since the pandemic. In addition to being an accelerator, the pandemic has also pushed educational institutions into adopting virtual learning tools more than ever before. It is anticipated that this adoption will persist even after the pandemic is over due to the vast opportunities that blended and e-learning present to these institutions including increased capacity and new revenue streams.
Advantages and disadvantages of e-Learning
One of the downsides of face-to-face learning is the inability of teachers to adapt their teaching style to suit different types of learners. Moreover, the typical classroom has been characterized by focusing on theory while leaving practice for home, where the ideal scenario requires a flipped classroom for maximum effectiveness.
With arising e-Learning tools and technologies, it is now more possible than ever before to offer a personalized learning experience to every unique student. Thanks to smart algorithms and artificial intelligence integrated in e-learning solutions, subjects of weakness can now be reinforced until the student reaches an adequate level of knowledge to proceed. Moreover, with using the right mix between synchronous and asynchronous methods, an adequate balance between student-teacher interaction and self-paced learning can be established. In addition, utilizing methods such as gamification would help increase the learners’ motivation to stay on track and complete their online courses and programs. In other words, the options with e-Learning are endless given the advancement of technology.
When it comes to individual learners who seek to enhance their skill-sets and unveil a new world of opportunities without rejoining university, the advantages of e-Learning can be summed up with a quote by Mark Hayes, Head of Marketing at Kintell: “eLearning makes learning not something you have to get over with, but something you look forward to! From experience, you learn more when you enjoy the process.”
In spite of its many advantages, eLearning has its own drawbacks like everything else. One of the widely agreed upon disadvantages of online learning is the reduced student engagement and class interaction. In times of crisis, the prolonged duration of virtual learning, especially that it wasn’t always well-designed, has contributed to psycho-social repercussions for learners. Social-isolation is very dangerous especially for youth who need regular interaction with others as their personalities continue to develop. Communication skills are considered to be crucial in the 21st century and thus grasping the art of social communication is key to success in this era.
Another drawback of online learning is the fact that studying online, especially when self-paced requires a lot of self-motivation. When learners attend educational institutions, they are surrounded by peers and educators who motivate them and encourage them to learn and work hard. When the peer and teacher interaction are absent in the virtual environment, and when no alternative is put in place, staying on track might become difficult.
The last drawback that needs some attention is the amount of time that both teens and adults are spending on their screens. With an increased reliance on online learning, kids and youth are spending more and more time on their phones and laptops. In the times of crisis, even social interaction was taking place online. This extended screen-time has detrimental effects on the individual’s health including sight problems, headaches, depression, insomnia and inability to concentrate to name a few. This is why it is always important to use technology in a balanced way and to continuously take breaks away from electronic devices to give one’s brain and body a reboost and detoxification from the screen.
e-Learning on Shabab Lab
At Shabab Lab, we embrace technology and the newest state-of-the-art advancements in the field of e-Learning. We are aware that going online is the best way for startups to scale and we are leveraging on the increased adoption and acceptance of online learning as a result of the pandemic.
Since Shabab Lab offers skills that are mostly neglected by the educational system, presenting this content virtually outside classroom hours have always been an appealing option for both schools and students. Furthermore, our team is always working on developing a solid relationship with schools so these 21st-century skills namely social innovation, entrepreneurship, technology for good, and community engagement skills can be seamlessly integrated into the curriculum.
Our courses and programs stem from decades of experience of university-teaching, community work, and high-tech development. Our programs are designed uniquely to maximize learner interaction and team-work while completing the programs online. Moreover, in the implementation plan that we are rolling out over several phases, we will be soon using gamification and AI methods to enhance the learners’ experience.
Most importantly, Shabab Lab renders itself as much more than a learning environment. It provides a unique opportunity for youth, or shabab in Arabic, to challenge themselves and serve the world beyond their individual self or small circle. The platform presents itself as a virtual innovation lab that allows the youth to innovate and team up with like-minded peers to create meaningful impact-driven solutions to real problems of their interest that help their local communities become a better place. Finally, Shabab Lab is a community of change-makers that advocates the use of technology and entrepreneurship for the social good and provides mentorship support to take the youth social innovations to the next level.