Lessons Learned… Technological Innovation in Education during COVID-19

The challenge of COVID-19 has led to many opportunities for various industries to find entrepreneurial ways to circumvent its disastrous economic fallout. The educational sector has certainly been a flagship project with the latest technological platforms implemented to ensure all students and professionals remain on track for successful careers and futures.

COVID-19 has not only threatened primary and secondary development of our children but also the multi-billion-dollar tertiary industry that supported many States’ bottom lines as well.

The professional industries have also had to change format quickly to ensure all employees are adequately upskilled and trained during this period.

Australia’s educational COVID-19 crisis response was immediate, and it has done the IT digital sector proud with the platforms and infrastructure it is utilising. If you cannot move about in the world now, let the IT world move about and come to you!

Even traditional educators have conceded that this is the pathway forward now and have embraced online learning software platforms to enable ongoing access to global education.

If you have not already experienced the benefits of online learning, we’d like to outline a few ‘positives’ here for your consideration:

A large variety of courses to choose from – since COVID-19 everything you can dream of is available to learn online. Now is the time to upskill but you can also look outside the square to other areas of interest and educate yourself with maximum freedom.  

Multiple ways to communicate with your educator – the great thing about online classes vs. traditional classes is the flexibility you have to communicate with your educator. It is not always convenient to see a teacher face-to-face, so between email, live chat and telephone conversations, you should have more opportunities to get feedback or have a great Q&A session with them.

It doesn’t cost as much – you can save hundreds of dollars to get a qualification when you’re learning online. The traditional costs associated with using classroom space and equipment don’t apply. If you have the right hardware and software to log on and complete course assignments, as well as study the material, there are big savings you can benefit from right away.

You can customise your learning environment to improve maximum concentration – whether you’re at home, on the road or at a friend’s house, you can create your own perfect room to study class materials and do homework assignments with ultimate concentration. You don’t have to put up with any more disruptive environments like crowded libraries or offices. Online learning offers better opportunities to concentrate by simply not having the distraction of other people.

Enjoy a flexible schedule –one of the greatest benefits of getting online training is you can still work full-time and manage your time to study and do extra training in your off hours. If you work non-traditional hours, you don’t have to lose sleep, arrange for childcare or waste time commuting to physical classrooms.

It’s eco-friendly – in the debate of online classes vs. traditional courses, you don’t have to commute to an educational facility to take the courses you need to complete a qualification or training. You’ll save money on petrol and vehicle maintenance, but most importantly, learning online saves you time that you can use to study and take assessment in the comfort of your home.

Boost your opportunities for classroom subject discussions – online educational software platforms give you the chance to talk about subject matter and assessments using chat forums or live online discussion sites. You can still exchange ideas and dialogue with other students without having to travel to a common meeting place that might not be convenient for you.

Join virtual study and thought leadership groups – it’s possible to form study groups online using free online software like Google Hangout or Join Me to study remotely with others. All you need is your computer, a headset to listen and talk in, and the time to join others virtually to swap your business or study ideas, and have questions answered about things you need help on. You can share screens, present documents, use virtual whiteboards to brainstorm ideas and organise your projects accordingly.

You can review course materials repeatedly – even if it’s 3AM, you have access to online course materials such as videos, podcasts, written materials to reinforce course concepts and theory you might be confused about. It’s so much easier to flip through screens, use the “find” function to quickly zero in on relevant paragraphs quickly and take online notes to help you understand the class materials.

You can learn at your own pace – the pressure to keep up with other students in a face-to-face environment is removed. You might knock out some courses in record time because the concepts and material are easy for you to understand, or you may need extra time to make some of the more abstract concepts stick with you. The point is, you are in control of your progress through any online educational course you take.

Take online quizzes and exams and get your score immediately – let’s face it, waiting to learn your test score can be nerve-racking. Online learning software has immediate scoring systems to let you know how well you passed the test.

You’ll develop great self-discipline – without the commitment to attending physical classes, you’ll be forced to learn self-discipline by managing your time and tasks efficiently. If you need to use time management tools like scheduling time and tasks in an online calendar, this is a life-long skill that will help you throughout your chosen career.

All these positive points are certainly motivational, however, I’m sure you’re still asking, “But in business, what of the necessary social interaction that is pivotal with conference networking, ongoing education and development?”

As a staunch advocate of all things ‘Tech’, even I must concede that the only downside of online events is the distinct lack of the good ol’ fashioned ‘Happy Hour’ Networking.  As hard as we try, a virtual recreation is never quite the same as the real thing is it? Don’t despair though, all traditional communication methods will return to us in time.  Stay strong!

From a personal perspective, I have committed professionally to various peer group ‘meet ups’ online where we discuss business marketing strategy and statistics during a dedicated time each week. One group consists predominantly of national attendance (from Australia) whose attendees usually (before COVID-19) attended international conferences together in the US on a quarterly basis. We have kept the discussion and education alive, simply by meeting online and brainstorming in the format we were used to.  Our collaborative learning environment and commitment to educating ourselves has never faulted during COVID-19.

I also partake in international conferences that were originally scheduled in the US to be ‘live’ events but have now switched over to ‘virtual’. One conference originally had 1,500 attendees but since going ‘virtual’ because of COVID-19 has now registered over 4,000 attendees showing how convenient online learning and conference attendance can be. Professionals are searching for ongoing education and the virtual world of IT has provided them with greater access than ever before.

As accountants and business owners, CPD points are also an ongoing industry requirement for you and your team to continue being eligible to practise your craft. Innovative online educational platforms for accountants have been integral to keeping professional services operating and your employees up to speed with ever-changing rules and regulations.

As IT experts, we are also supported by our suppliers’ educational platforms that provide us with virtual universities where our tech specialists can log in for a certain number of hours to remain professionally adept.

We are all in this together – from primary school education right through to qualified professional advancement – every teaching level needs innovative IT software and infrastructure for it to be successful.  

No matter what level we are educating our children or ourselves as seasoned professionals, a student should always be supported by the multiple benefits of superior technical innovations that can deliver a deeper learning experience.

When all the COVID-19 drama is behind us, a positive element that has come out of it has been the innovative educational technology and the ongoing accessibility to it. So, even when we are safe to re-enter the world again, we should always remember our online lessons learned during these extraordinary times.

Stay well.    

Iain.