In the past year, more than 1.5 billion students globally were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The health crisis led many educational facilities—from daycare centers to colleges and universities—to transition to full virtual distance learning. And even as some of these are reopening now, some parents and students prefer distance learning over face-to-face classes. The health consequences of being in one room with strangers from different households do not sit well with people.
But even before the pandemic, the education sector is already learning the ropes of integrating technology into their curriculums. Learning virtually happens 24 hours a day. Working students can continue their education. Single mothers can pursue higher learning. Online courses open up opportunities to a lot of people, regardless of where they come from and the circumstances of their lives now.
All of these are possible because of technology. The integration of technology into the learning experience enables students to embrace this unnatural way of attending school. Thanks to teleconference platforms, apps, synchronized calendars, and project management software, it has become possible for learners to avoid educational gaps.
Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Extended Reality
Technology sure has gone a long way from the days of dial-up internet. How can you explain the existence of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (VR) in learning? These three allow the interaction of digital objects, the real world, and animation. Students can immerse themselves in the information they “experience” in virtual reality. In fact, some are developing a platform right now where students will “attend” a class with other people in a simulated digital environment.
At the beginning of every semester, a teacher explains the class schedule and activities for the term. The online classroom calendar replicates that experience. It is a shared program where students can see the assignments, field trips, courses, worksheets, tests, and semester breaks. This will give students a vision of what will happen during the term. The calendar will help them prepare and adjust their schedules accordingly. This is especially helpful for working students.
Virtual classes tend to be boring because there is no interaction between students and teachers. Gamifying the lessons will allow students to learn and enjoy. What are the types of games that can be done in a virtual classroom? You can distribute points per answered questions, do pop quizzes, create online scavenger hunts, execute role-play scenarios, and organize online competitions. Turn the conventionally boring topics into something the students will enjoy. These are possible online, too, as long as you remain creative and resourceful.
One of the best ways to encourage student collaboration is to share their screens with the whole class. The teacher can choose which screen to share. If the students are going to report on a topic, they can “take over” the class for a while and share their screens. Aside from this, technology will also allow the annotation of on-screen content. You can share an online whiteboard where students can work on solving problems you discuss in class.
Digital Field Trips
The pandemic has another impact on the student experience. They’ve lost the experience of going on field trips. Even college students have these. To not rob students of that experience, you can organize a digital field trip. Museums around the world have opened their doors to virtual reality, allowing “tourists” to “see” various artworks in close-up. Online 3D maps make it easier for students to have a feel of different places. Conduct a digital tour of a national park and be ready for some trivia. A digital field trip may not be as enjoyable as a real one, but it gives students an opportunity to maximize their learning at this time.
Inviting a Guest
Another way to liven up your lesson plan is to invite a guest. This guest should be an expert in the topic that you are discussing. Maybe a professional will make your students listen more. They are going to be interested in what kind of reality they are facing once they leave school. You can arrange a video conference with whoever from wherever. That’s the beauty of technology. You can reach as many people as possible from the farthest places.
The transition to virtual learning is not an easy one, both for the teachers and students. There is nothing normal about not meeting your classmates face-to-face. People are social beings by nature. They like personal interactions. But as technology grows and expands to far-flung areas, virtual learning comes with many benefits despite its one major drawback of no face-to-face interaction.