Education in 2022: Hybrid Learning in the Connected World

As the year continues to progress and some sense of normality appears to be on the agenda once again, listening to the requirements and needs of educators is a sure way to understand how to best address and assist the needs of educational environments in the connected world.  

Speaking to educators, several believe that once the pendulum swings back again from distance learning, it will settle on a balance of physical and virtual learning, at least in the connected world. Both environments have their merits, however, this will largely depend on whether the school and indeed country, can effectively support this kind of learning strategy. 

A study by Promethean on the future of tech in education found that 58% of UK respondents believed all classes will be taught in person where possible, with a blend of both digital and analogue resources. This despite 95% of them having provisions for a full-time remote learning program should this be required. 

Clearer EdTech Outcomes

The rapid switch to virtual learning in 2020 meant that educators had to make swift decisions under enormous pressure. After the ramifications of these decisions were experienced, many are now taking the time to reflect and have realised that the edtech tools they implemented, weren’t necessarily the best for the job. 

After 2 years of learning and insights, educators now have a clearer idea of what works and what is required of technology to truly support a student’s learning journey. As we have seen after events like Bett and the reaction of the connected world, there will be a lot more certainty in roll-out, as educators feel more confident making purchase decisions with regards to technology due to their recent experiences. 

For many schools, 2020 marked their first investment in a virtual learning program and where the IT administrator was once the sole authority on technology in schools, teachers themselves are now weighing in and influencing the purchasing decision due to their newfound skills and vital experience in dealing with virtual learning environments first hand.

The shifting landscape and rising popularity of online-only High schools

In several countries, private, online-only high schools such as Valenture Institute in Cape Town, South Africa or the Austin High School in Texas, United States have gained in popularity. 

No stranger to the challenges of virtual learning, these online schools already have several years of experience behind them, and were well-prepared for the pandemic when compared to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. 

A consequence of the ongoing pandemic is that interest and indeed enrolments in online-only high schools have increased as brick-and-mortar private schools, despite forced closures, have refused to adjust fees accordingly and parents have begun to source alternatives in response to that.

This results in schools that are, for the most part, facing financial challenges, having to innovate and adapt to overcome the challenges that are facing their enrolment numbers and thus their continued offering of education.

The great Chromebook slowdown

The 2021 boom in demand for Chromebooks due to the sudden need for devices in response to the pandemic has driven Google’s hardware dominance in the market. 

This shift towards Chromebooks has eaten away at the Windows hardware market dominance, seeing Google outperform every other device in the industry in Q2 2021. However, despite the initial surge, this growth has slowed, with sales of low-end devices slowing globally. 

As schools begin to re-prioritise budgets with the return to physical classrooms, many hardware vendors have seen orders delayed or cancelled until a new budget becomes available. Despite the slowdown, it’s believed that schools are planning for the long-term integration of Chromebooks into their learning ecosystems due to their sturdy build and cheaper price point in comparison to most hardware options. 

Despite this seeming stabilisation of the world, it would be naive to think that it’s as simple as returning to the new normal and there being no fall-out. The experiences that we have all gone through in the last few years shouldn’t be dismissed and being understanding of their implications can go a long way in helping students as well as educators. 

Student Wellbeing is the Top Priority

“A lot of students are struggling emotionally this year because of the pandemic and teaching is harder than it’s ever been because of this shift. Some haven’t been in school for two years and are having a hard time adjusting to being back in the classroom. Some have had too much screen time and it’s changed the way their brain works and we’re seeing more students qualifying for special education services and needing help.”

–Jami Davis, Technology Teacher, Mansfield Independent School District

After 2 years of remote learning challenges, it is universally accepted that supporting students socially and emotionally is now a top priority for schools. The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of both educators and students and schools are attempting to tackle the reversal of the impact of a period of isolation and remote contact. 

Tools that prioritise collaboration, student well-being and mental support must be emphasised to allow for the consideration of both students and educators. 

Despite all this hard data, and the urgency that is required to ensure students return to learning, it’s important that we all need to care for ourselves and our loved ones as we deal with the world that has now become our new reality.

With many students expressing that they missed interacting with their friends, it’s predicted that hands-on learning, collaboration, and teamwork will be prioritised in the 22/23 academic year.

A change that I’m sure we’re all looking forward to, going back to school and going back to the relationships that are so important and significant in the development of students as they strive to grow and flourish.

Some resources we’ve put together at Mobile Guardian to help with learning and education in 2022:

Onwards,

Robyn Hobson 

Team Mobile Guardian

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