While classes here in the U.S. have resumed mostly through virtual means, African-American children and other historically disenfranchised minorities have been largely left behind. And again, much of this has to do with the inequities that have long been observed and criticized in the American educational system. This has rekindled debates about how one of the richest countries in the world educates its youth. Indeed, the year 2020 has not been kind to everyone, especially low-income students who can scarcely afford joining this online transformation.
At the same time, the same technologies are being used by community leaders to address these problems through innovative solutions.
Transforming education at all levels will be a long and arduous road. But considering how quickly many schools, academies, universities, and communities are adapting, experts are hopeful that educational technologies can address the same gaps they created.
Fortunately, this has been the case in the state of Minnesota, where representatives of St. Cloud State University, the African American Male Forum, and the United Way Partner for Student Success are collaborating on increasing distance learning access for black and low-income families in the region. This includes the creation of broadband-powered distance learning support sites in under-utilized spaces within or near communities, such as rental offices and church basements. Part of the group’s work is also to continuously discover and close such gaps.
Across the world, larger developments are happening in India. Upon studying six states based on educational performance and broadband connectivity, the Indian government found that while private schools have embraced apps like Zoom and Google Classroom, state schools rely on a combination of old and emerging tech. This has led to creating and developing tools like the e-Pathshala for instant textbook access, as well as digital teaching tools like the DIKSHA platform and the Interactive Voice Recording System.
Meanwhile, the Swayam Prabha television channels provide additional learning content to supplement classes with teachers. After unifying its different plans under the Pradhan Mantri e-Vidya Initiative for Digital Education, the Central Government’s education officials have continued to communicate directly with parents and teachers through various official WhatsApp groups. These channels have proved essential to the scope and effectiveness of the education minister’s response. And this underscores another huge and fundamental change:
As a way to properly respond to the needs of students in the new normal, parents are now involved in developing virtual education. And this has opened better avenues for training parents to become positive influences. Positive Action has always advocated parental involvement in community-based, multi-cultural education. The faster the world embraces training parents as educators, the quicker the world’s schools can deliver and bridge income gaps and racial divides. The more trends continue down this path, the more children from minority groups and low-income families will have the option of getting into college, which brings us to our next point.
Another notable development is how the world is also increasingly recognizing the legitimacy of online degrees. From top brick-and-mortar universities to online schools, long-standing academic institutions are at the forefront of collegiate education’s digital evolution. In a transformative collaboration with American educational software company 2U, several of the bachelor’s degree programs at the University of London have recently been made available online. This includes different bachelors of science degrees such as accounting and finance, mathematics and economics, and international relations. This is alongside the six other social science degrees that the university’s member institution, the London School of Economics, already offers online. By 2021, the University of London will be offering a total of nine online degrees – with plans to expand further.
To put things into perspective, many long-standing online universities already offer much more. As one of the oldest web-based learning institutions in the U.S., there are about 30 online bachelor’s degrees at Maryville University. This includes 100% online degree programs such as data science, nursing, organizational leadership, international studies, and sustainability to name a few. In short, collegiate educators have adapted well to the pandemic-driven digital transformation, and show strong signs of continuing to do so in the future. As a result, we can expect online degrees – along with online certifications, licenses, and other courses – to not just be more legitimate, but to also rapidly evolve and improve over time.
In summary, the future of education seems bright. At the same time, more efforts need to continue towards ensuring that no student gets left behind.