“Distance learning” has become the new reality for many students in the U.S. and around the globe, thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While many might be concerned about the new format, there are truly some long-lasting opportunities for our children in this.
Some of the solutions educators are turning to in order to provide distance learning include digital learning-management systems, mobile learning services, apps that offer self-directed learning content and other skill-building content, collaboration platforms with integrated live video communication, and tools for educators to create their own digital learning content.
For example, Google Classroom is a popular digital learning-management system, along with others like Moodle and Schoology. Cell-Ed offers remote education, training, and upskill opportunities from a cellphone, even offline, providing myriad possibilities not only in education but also for businesses and for international development. Collaboration platforms have exploded in the business world to support the sudden and massive need for work-from-home enterprise solutions, but they’re also playing an important role in bringing students back to school. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype all offer video communications solutions for education as well as enterprise.
To meet the demands of students worldwide, companies are putting their heads together to provide the systems and solutions necessary to support distance learning—and they’re moving fast to provide these systems and solutions.
A partnership between Intel, AWS, and Career Launcher called Project Aspiration 2020, for instance, is addressing the needs of thousands of students in India during the pandemic. The companies developed an online learning platform, aspiration.ai, in record time and have since scaled the platform. The platform integrates AWS cloud services and Intel processors to facilitate connection, live streaming, and creation and engagement tools for educators and students, in addition to advanced analytics for teachers.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with R. Sreenivasan, (Sreeni) chief customer officer, Career Launcher, on an episode of The Peggy Smedley Show to chat about solutions to keep our children’s education uninterrupted today and some of the challenges with online learning.
He says, “In the first dot.com era we were on the cutting-edge of the technology with online facilitation of the school education. The technologies have been there since 2000, 2001, but when COVID hit hard, and paralyzed all of humanity, then technology came into aid.”
In his interview with me, he says Project Aspiration has been able to help a couple of million children. In a quick seven-day turnaround, it was able to get one of the school systems of one of the states online.
“This COVID opportunity—it is an opportunity and a blessing in disguise—because all these power structures were dismantled because they had no other choice and they had to meet the needs, most of the times they see the needs are not met the way it could have been met, because of various challenges,” he says. “It has broken quite a few barriers. I joke by saying when the post-COVID educational institutions come back, the students are not going to take it easily until technology gets integrated into the classrooms and outside the classrooms.”
Innovative software isn’t the only thing coming out of the tech space that’s aimed at helping educators and students this fall. Tech companies like AVer Information are flexing their ed-tech muscles by offering IoT (Internet of Things) devices that can make distance learning better. AVer just released an AI (artificial intelligence)-enabled camera that can automatically track a teacher as he or she moves about a physical space, providing uninterrupted learning for viewers and one less thing to worry about for the educator or presenter. The distance-learning device leverages AI to recognize the presenter’s body and follow it seamlessly around a room. It doesn’t require a second operator and can recognize the presenter even if he/she is wearing a face mask.
It’s probable that even after COVID-19 becomes a nasty memory, distance learning will be more prominent in global education systems. The technology solutions that are making it possible in these early days will grow in sophistication as adoption and cashflow increase. Technologies like AI, AR (augmented reality), and VR (virtual reality) will enhance these solutions to create a new type of distance learning that will one day feel as normal, if not more normal, than a traditional classroom setting.
Looking to the future, Sreeni tells me, “There is a great opportunity to create the content in an amazing and engaging way, even when the schools start, even when the classrooms begin. This is a great resource they are creating forever for the students.”
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