digital divide

Education and tech have collided like never before in 2020. People have realized that the tools needed to do remote business or accomplish remote learning education is possible with tools like Zoom. Here is all about digital education and how it is here to stay — if it can only tackle the digital divide.

Like Zoom, Canvas has seen a similar rise in popularity and the number of users. The learning management system is now statewide in 13 states and has over 30 million users. Larger institutions are also using a tool called Construct to build digital-specific lessons and game-based content.

Large video game makers are also jumping into education. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has added Borderlands Science inside their popular Borderlands franchise. For in-game rewards, players can help map the human gut microbiome. So now, when a parent tells a kid to do something productive instead of playing video games, they have a great comeback.

A new Instructure study details the State of Education During COVID-19: what’s working, what’s here to stay, and what will need to be fixed and addressed as we move forward.

As with any advancement in tech or disruption of an industry or institution, there are unintended challenges. Here is what this study found to be the most important.

Faculty-to-Student Engagement is Still Key

With an increase in remote learning and digital education, the definition of student success will have to change. There is also a broadening conversation happening on emphasizing retention and aptitude versus being present and remembering facts. As kids already have access to a million things on their phones, critical thinking skills, and how to use their resources best becomes more applicable.

Still, the big key in retaining information is engaging content and hands-on instruction. 86% of students list this as their key to driving future success.

Engagement is key, too, because only 69% of students feel engaged with their classwork during these massive disruptions to conventional learning.

Improved Views on Remote Learning

That said, most people are pleasantly surprised by what kids are achieving remotely. Just like with workplaces and Zoom calls, the shift wasn’t seamless, but it worked.

60% of administrators and 50% of students have a more positive attitude toward online learning now. That means even after we conquer this pandemic, there may no be a majority that wants to continue online — but just like in business, there will be many who have done better because of remote learning.

Short-term remote learning challenges.

There are still challenges in the short-term. 70% of students are reportedly falling behind in some way due to the pandemic. Falling behind can be due to a variety of factors including slow changes to cut quickly on the technology in the spring, or school closures from in-person classes in the fall.

It takes an adjustment period, but there are larger potential benefits going forward with online education. For example, parents will be able to more easily stay engaged with their students and know exactly where their kids are in lesson plans. A parent will have a better grasp on when to step in and help their child when school-teacher-and students are on track in real-time.

Addressing an Increasing Digital Divide

The digital divide is the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed for the future of online education.

Access to devices, Wi-Fi and other tech varies across households. More remote learning also means variance in household distractions and support.

Kids in upper economic households (56%) feel two and a half times more engaged in their schoolwork than kids from lower-income households (21%). These issues could merely come from closer-quarters in lower-income households. As parents are better trained in the needs of their children (i.e., need for a quiet study atmosphere) most adults will step up to the task, and we’ll all have a better experience.

What will lessen the digital divide?

Four times more students from lower-income households find it harder to stay engaged during online learning. But these discrepancies have always been present in varying income households.


What will it take to change the stats? Innovation. In the late 70’s the innovation was Sesame Street that suddenly catapulted lower-income students to be able to compete with higher income students. As tech rapidly progresses we will see more and more innovation that can bring everyone up to speed.

Tech, Time, and Innovation

The issues to bring about a satisfactory resolution will include technological advances, time and the innovation to impliment new processes. It starts with the tech. We are transitioning to long-term online learning principle as we learn how to learn. We are teaching teachers how to teach in this forced digital climate.

As we forge ahead with new ideas and innovation — we lessen a digital-divide and make things better for all. Education has always had to move with the times and now is no different. Teaching and learning is becoming more consistent and uniform as we face the challenges of the digital — and pandemic — learning.

More discussions will need to take place and we’ll want the experts to weighin.

Household distraction and time to complete work are more systemic going forward now. Greater discussions are taking place about the need for parental workplace flexibility amidst pandemic issues.

Large companies and employers in different industries are addressing the challenges with the knowledge that our world has become complicated and won’t continue the same after this current pandemic. Many businesses are working on a departure of what work has looked like in the past. Introductions to flexible working and all that entails is being discussed.

Cost Saving in the Digital Divide

One of the interesting possibilities about education and a potentially huge benefit to more online learning will be cost savings.

Institutions, such as schools, will incur less hard costs with its buildings and leases. Large structures require upkeep, cleaning, power, gas, electricity and extensive repair.

However, moving forward we will still face what we have always faced. Logistics. Finding and retaining good employees in the education sector. Competent salary to retain quality teachers.

As we get better technology in the hands of every student, and pay our teachers a salary comensurate with what their job entails — our education system will get better and we can compete better in the global arena.

But for now — let’s keep the kids engaged — and tackle the digital divide.

Image Credit: julia m cameron; pexels

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