The Future Of Education - Learning Beyond The Pandemic | Vietcetera
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May 12, 2020

The Future Of Education - Learning Beyond The Pandemic

We asked educators in Hanoi and Saigon about the future of academia and what traditional educators can do now to serve the youth of today and tomorrow.

The Future Of Education - Learning Beyond The Pandemic

The concept of blended learning has existed for quite some time now. The approach combines the traditional place-base classroom method with the digital platforms and educational materials which can make it an effective component in a remote learning environment. While many educators have been mulling over the possibilities of integrating blended learning into their curricula, it was the transition to online learning on an unprecedented scale during the pandemic that really shifted the gears.

We asked educators in Hanoi and Saigon about the future of academia and what traditional educators can do now to serve the youth of today and tomorrow.

Prof. Rick Bennett, Executive Dean (Academic & Students), RMIT Vietnam

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Learning has traditionally revolved around direct discussion and engagement – How has this changed over the past few months?

Learning will always be enhanced by discussion and engagement. In fact, if you consider the scenario of social media (Facebook, Zalo, Twitter, online news), within all age groups, there is no better example of how we use online discussions and engagement to understand, accept or challenge the information we receive today.

What is enhanced online, and coronavirus implications have been a catalyst for this, is access and flexibility. Our students are digital natives, and they are used to interacting online and processing information they read from the internet or social media.

RMIT leveraged its global experience developing quality education online and worked hard to rapidly transition the delivery of our courses to online in Vietnam. Interestingly, this ties right back into the environment our students are used to, tapping into the digital behaviors, skills and connectivity of today’s students.

I don’t believe the fundamentals of learning change at all. What does change is how learning can take place online, so the questions we ask at RMIT — Why? What? How? — are applicable to digital learning too.

What measures have educators taken to keep learners engaged and active?

Our educators at RMIT have really stepped up to engage our students and keep them feeling included and not alone. They have been quick to switch to an online delivery mode and adapt their classes to suit that environment. They listened to their student feedback to the transition, and what was working, or needed improvement, and adapted to suit. Our educators continue to provide students with feedback and are available for one-on-one interactions with students too.

There will always be room to improve, and we continue to survey our students for ideas and feedback. The early feedback and signs are really positive, and we are hearing from our educators how the students are working together with them to create the best possible outcome. It’s been really collaborative and wonderful to see.

Given we all learn and participate differently, other advantages our educators have noticed is that the quieter, more introverted students are really flourishing in the online environment, finding it easier to participate in discussions and ask questions openly online.

For RMIT, our student experience is our number one priority and this extends far beyond classes and assessments. We have made rapid adaptations to shift our whole experience online during these unusual times – including our library, recreation centre, student advice, academic support, wellbeing services, and career advice services.

How can students take advantage of remote learning in the future?

Learning online is different and requires a change in mindset, but there’s a very large body of theoretical and practical evidence which points to the fact that it’s as good or even better for students’ education.

I think there are huge advantages to learning, asynchronously (not live), such as more time to consider responses; freedom of time restrictions so you can study when it suits your lifestyle; far better access and opportunity for people studying from a distance; easier access for those with learning or physical disabilities, etc.

I would say to take full advantage of learning remotely a student should first resist trying to compare it to face-to-face study. Instead, with an open mind, reflect on how you learn online in your everyday routines through social media networks and online news and information. These are the same skills, critical thinking, information processing and analysis that allow us to thrive in our online higher education learning.

Across the board, how do you think formal and informal (beyond grade schools, university) education will evolve post pandemic?

While I don’t have a crystal ball, what I would hope is that we make the most of the experience and what we’ve learned and how we’ve adapted during the pandemic.

There have been some huge advantages that we have all discovered from being forced to work remotely, including the flexibility of working or studying without the morning commute, and at a time that suits our lifestyles and personal circumstances.

The benefits of blended academic delivery are enormous, and as I noted, access and flexibility are the benefits that we have felt today, but are the same benefits that open up enormous possibilities into the future. Blended learning delivers the best of both worlds where you can have greater access and flexibility strongly supported by opportunities for practical application.

I think those schools, colleges, and universities that evolve and change now, will be the ones that are more valuable and relevant to a world post-covid-19.

Dr. Catriona Moran, Head of School — Saigon South International School 

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Learning has traditionally revolved around direct discussion and engagement – How has this changed over the past few months?

At first, one may think that online learning might negatively impact student engagement and discussion. And that may be true if one expects just to transfer the exact classroom format to an online environment. However, we found that as our teachers were able to adapt their classroom curriculums early on and to use online tools that encourage engagement and virtual discussions, students remained engaged and excited to learn. 

What measures have educators implemented to keep learners engaged and active?

Our teachers have done a fantastic job adapting lesson plans to encourage students to see opportunities, not limitations. Yes, we’ve been learning remotely, but let’s challenge ourselves to be creative at home. Video challenges have proven to be very successful across disciplines, and grade-levels, in getting students to engage.

In Early Childhood, students held fashion shows and shared collages of artwork from natural materials they collected. Elementary School students are enjoying giving video commentary on each other’s work, through tools like Flipgrid or SeeSaw.

In Middle School, PE teachers involve students with workout challenges, even hosting an Olympic Challenge, and in High School, the string orchestra and concert band just published their first virtual concert! Throughout, it has been essential to continue celebrating achievements and to acknowledge milestones.

How can students take advantage of remote learning in the future?

Before anything else, students should remember to keep their body and mind happy and healthy. When no one is telling you to stand up, move about, and you do not have the opportunity to take a short break with friends, it is easy to forget how important this is, and how large a part it is of our daily routine in a traditional school environment. 

So, get up and move about regularly as it helps your body and mind. It is also critical that students stay connected with friends and classmates, so they need to make an extra effort to remain socially connected when they are not physically together. And lastly, of course, it is essential to set routines and goals for yourself. In a recent article on our website, a 10th-grade student summed up her insights, which I think can be helpful for all students – “understand the potential pitfalls of a flexible schedule, use your time wisely, and stay organized.” 

Across the board, how do you think formal and informal (beyond grade schools, university) education will evolve post pandemic?

For years, our field has been exploring the idea of re-imagining education in the classroom and beyond. At this point, educators around the world have been forced to embrace technologies previously underutilized and to reconsider alternative structures and systems of education. We don’t know yet how this will evolve. But, we do know that we have seen more student-centered education and individualized instruction. And, I think we will see educational institutions bringing those ideas back into the physical school environment.

Also, I expect that we will see greater utilization of a combination of in-class teaching and learning and online teaching and learning. We know we have the tools and the experience, and we should reflect on the possibilities we can offer students in this blended learning environment. This will place a high demand on the quality of both the curriculum and teachers but ultimately should better serve the youth of today and tomorrow. 

Ms. Jane McGee, Head of School — United Nations International School of Hanoi (UNIS Hanoi)

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Learning has traditionally revolved around direct discussion and engagement – How has this changed over the past few months?

At UNIS Hanoi, direct discussion and engagement has continued. We’ve simply moved those discussions and engagements online; that’s really the only difference. We use a range of platforms and methods to ensure the teaching and learning we conduct remains effective. This might be more intuitive for teenagers, but it has also been in full evidence for our younger learners.

A successful example of this is our recent Primary Years Programme (PYP) exhibition which was hosted online by Grade 5 students. This exhibition is a large, compulsory learning component for this year’s group. I’m pleased to say, with the help of their teachers and mentors, they were able to hold virtual discussions, remain engaged and, most importantly, work in teams to collaborate effectively and produce joint projects. That’s impressive for 10 and 11 year olds. 

What measures have educators taken to keep learners engaged and active?

Our teachers have been exceptionally creative during this period. They have had to totally re-imagine and re-create content delivery and student engagement. They’ve produced hundreds of fun, informative videos, puppet shows, sing-alongs, quizlets and interactive games that have truly enriched the learning experience for our students.

These different teaching tools together with regular teacher contact that includes synchronous lessons and conversations around wellbeing, has helped to keep our learners engaged and active.

For many years, educators have talked about the importance of the tripartite relationship between parents, teachers and students in regards to student achievement. During the Distance Learning period, this relationship has been crucial to the overall success of the programme.

How can students make the most of remote learning in the future?

Our number one tip for students of all ages has been the importance of routine and wellbeing. With routine comes discipline to accomplish daily tasks and to maintain healthy habits such as keeping a regular bed time, exercising for at least thirty minutes a day and eating nutritious meals. Finding time to have fun and connect with friends is also important.

Additionally, we remind students to interact with their teachers, ask them questions and let them know when they may be struggling with a particular task. Maintaining teacher-student (and in the case of Elementary School student-parent) relationships has been critical during this time. 

Across the board, how do you think formal and informal (beyond grade schools, university) education will evolve post pandemic?

Crises force change and test our ability as educators and learners to be agile in our approach to teaching and learning. For many educational institutions, I believe we’ve shown we can be responsive to changing tides and there is certainly learning that will be taken back into the way in which we will deliver in the classroom. 

For the first time in living memory, the majority of educational institutions across the globe ended face-to-face instruction and moved classes online instantaneously. This is unprecedented and has resulted in a huge global learning curve for us all. There are a number of intellectual conversations taking place surrounding the long term impact of COVID-19 on education, but the outcome of those conversations will look different depending on a number of factors such as age of the learners, the curriculum followed, the geo-location of the school and so on and so forth. 

At UNIS Hanoi, we will likely adopt a blended approach to learning for the foreseeable future, advancing our ability to serve our students and their families.

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