While few aspects of society were untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no surprise that the education industry has been universally disrupted. Many educational institutions were forced to develop a patchwork of solutions before students were able to safely return to school or transfer to an online program that is effective.
Many educators found themselves woefully under-prepared to utilize the digital solutions required to engage learners at home, often without sufficient training or clear expectations. Even in higher education, corporate training, and professional development where digital tools and content have been more prevalent, educators and students found themselves under-prepared for a full transition to digital learning.
A Cultural Shift in Education
While digital educational content has taken huge strides in recent years, the education industry typically falls behind when it comes to communication and entertainment in digital advances. While digital educational content is a powerful tool, institutions and the educators that comprise this content are still fairly new at incorporating it into everyday lesson plans or coursework.
This hesitation to adapt to digital learning content types has resulted in educational systems worldwide being ill-prepared to adapt to the dramatic changes suddenly thrust upon it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the kindergarten classroom setting to corporate executive training seminars, every educational setting is looking for additional ways to leverage digital tools and content for greater understanding and adaptability. This attitude shift will set a new trajectory for the future of digital content in education. As learning environments return to normal, institutions will be able to use these innovative new learning methods to establish a more sustainable, digital learning environment.
Trends to watch
While all digital content will be much more valuable to education in the future, these particular trends are very likely to become staples of the entire spectrum of educational environments.
1. Augmented Reality and Gamification
The switch to digital learning in 2020 for many educators was accompanied by an immediate realization that effective education and engagement in virtual spaces offered new challenges. Learners have struggled to pay attention to online content that would otherwise be taught in seminars, lectures, labs, or classrooms.
As individual educators began to innovate new ways to capture the attention of their pupils, case studies of previous success with the incorporation of digital content through new techniques like augmented reality and gamification gained some corroborating results through impromptu experimentation of pioneering educators in the field.
Educators are just beginning to leverage the advantages of expanding technological tools available to students. As curriculum begins to develop around instruction beyond just verbal and written, tools like augmented reality will have an extraordinary effect on giving context to ideas and instruction far beyond what an instructor can express with a voice and a piece of chalk. As this technology can massively increase learning from elementary school to higher education and professional training, it’s likely there will be a renaissance of incorporating tools based on augmented reality into all levels of education.
Though gamification is nothing new in education, it offers a framework to introduce new tools and technologies that can be much more engaging than traditional digital content. Math-based computer games have been introduced to young students since the dawn of digital learning content. As educators strive to engage students with digital coursework, gamification has become more prevalent.
2. Mobile Learning
In the past, often a large stigma has been placed on distance learning. Correspondence and online education were commonly seen as lesser than in-person instruction, and while professional institutions and corporations often had rich training culture, digital training courses were often treated as long-form liability waivers. That stigma met its abrupt end in 2020, and now remote learning is moving toward in-person instruction, as far as credibility and methodology.
Mobile learning offers more than just remote education, however. Many solutions and digital content types are available specifically to teach in a relevant context. The ability of mobile devices to go anywhere allows educators to take their education wherever the context of a particular lesson demands.
3. Learning Management Systems
Learning management systems are nothing new in education. Even those in their mid-30s will probably remember experiences from their education with early pioneers like Blackboard and the headaches of these early systems. LMS have come a long way since then, but not everywhere. While many educational institutions and corporations had some type of LMS in place at the beginning of 2020, it became clear that these solutions were woefully unprepared to handle the increased utility suddenly demanded of them.
LMS were often looked at as administrative and organizational systems — something for students to look at for a syllabus or grading, or for professionals to look at upcoming deadlines on certifications, training information, and other administrative job details. Similar to how remote work has thrown offices into chaos, the drastic changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to education show similar cracks in the system.
As a result, LMS are working to develop more robust libraries of content to serve as a full-service digital environment for both educators and students.
Though educators across the world see a return to life as normal on the horizon, education will likely never return to the old normal. When in-person education becomes safer and more widespread again, there will be an immediate push to include more hybridized digital content tools with traditional education methods. This digital content renaissance in education will establish a new model for the industry that is more adaptable, effective, and engaging for learners.
This momentum will greatly transform education and intertwine its future with that of digital content. As educators across the world are eagerly awaiting the chance to roll up their sleeves and get to work, the future looks bright as together, with technology, they pave a better path to quality education in the future.