I have been living in a bubble for the past two months. First because I had to. But also because I was in some state of disbelieve. On my birthday on March 1, the world was still normal. A pandemic seemed something that was for a city in China. When a couple of villages in Italy were closed off, I remember feeling sorry for those people. And thinking: is that even possible? Can something like that be done?
14 days later, also my world changed, and as it turned out, almost everybody’s.
Of course, I was worried about my family’s and my teams’ health. But I felt relatively safe. I trusted scientists. I trusted our health system. I knew that if we would follow the advice (trust me, I read every piece of it….), we were going to be ok. Health wise. My biggest concern quickly became my business. No scientists to follow. No system as a backup. It felt going into no man’s land, without a map.
“Two months later, taking a step back, this is the most important thing I learned: if you were not convinced that digital transformation was something for your business, your organization, your school, then you are now…”
The past 60 days have done more for digital change than the past 6000 days all together….The businesses that won, are those that are either helping others to transform (like almost all IT companies), or were pioneers in profound (and often data driven) digital innovation. Some by a fully integrated supply chain combining digital experience with a physical goods flow (Amazon is probably the best example), and some by taking already digital experiences to a next level (Our partner Zoom has definitely change the web conferencing experience, although applications like Webex and Skype already existed…).
So what about education?
Since more than twenty years, education has been struggling with digital transformation. A lack of digital content, infrastructure, hardware, training, and access to cloud-based platforms, has slowed innovation on a bigger scale. Compared to that, these last months that transformation has gone into warp speed.
In the lockdown phase of this corona crisis, teachers have looked for models to work from home, using tools like Zoom. But that model has its limits: impossible to reach all students, difficult to work interactively, still a lack of content and interoperability with VLE platforms.
Therefor, it is my belief, that the next phase will be one were (finally) the blended or hybrid model will be prevalent. That means a mixture of online and offline classes and with the same mixture of physical and remote presence. That can be done with models like flipped classroom, with recorded instruction moments, with live broadcasts and more individual learning combined with group assignments.
There are 3 requirements for this model to be successful:
- Focus on digital content: right now, the content that teachers are using is very divers, very much adapted to local culture, and in many cases either not, fragmented or not very professionally created, available. There is a need for more training, better coordination, and a national push to structure this better.
- Classrooms have to change: more flexibility in size and furniture, probably more spacious with different learning zones and a “teacher studio”: this would be an area with the right hardware (a digital whiteboard or interactive flat panel, combined with a camera and sensors (for example to measure air quality)) and software (an open platform to use with all kinds of content, the right teacher tools to work with that content, plug ins for physical tools, testing and active learning components, and integrated streaming).
- More open distribution and communication platforms: VLE’s need to connect more easily to teaching platforms and communication tools. Sharing between students and instructors must be very easy and systems must allow easy individual follow-up.
In that way, in the new normal, teaching will be teaching. The concept of remote will already be a thing of the past.