Merely three years ago, the novel Coronavirus pandemic completely upended our lives and forced many of us to reckon with the fragile realities of our society. And even though the pandemic now seems like a distant nightmare, several of its impacts have outlasted their causation.
For better or worse, our society never reset to the pre-pandemic normal. The tiny infectious speck managed to change our world permanently.
One of the sectors which the pandemic changed the most was our education system. And even though the shift to online education, e-learning, or virtual classes was already underway, the pandemic managed to hasten its pace beyond our wildest imagination.
According to a study by the World Bank, during Covid-19, over a Billion learners had to make the shift to online methods of learning. And all of this happened practically overnight. It was a shift of behemoth proportions. Initially, it seemed like the world’s distant learning systems were not up to the mark and might crumble under the pressure of this responsibility.
After all, no one was nearly ready. Software systems were unequipped to handle this overnight influx, school staff, teachers, and parents were untrained, and most of all the students were simply not used to this new learning environment.
But over time, owing to the heroic efforts of school staff, tech workers, and parents, our online education systems gradually started to catch up. New technologies were launched and old ones were revamped to meet this increased demand, new rules, and regulations led to a virtual overhauling of the centuries-old education system.
Gradually, progress and human ingenuity started to prevail. Mankind was put to the test by nature, and despite initial losses, victory soon arrived. After all, the crucible of crises brings out the best in us. And then came the next phase. Mankind had played catch-up and won. It was time to get ahead of the curve.
Wall Street firms, venture capitalists, Billionaire investors, tech barons, and of course the rulers of the world started seeing the unlimited potential of this new form of education. Huge amounts of Dollars were doled out, new startups were launched, mergers took place and legal frameworks were articulated to help facilitate the growth of this booming industry.
And what a boom it turned out to be. The tiny online education industry became a giant in a matter of months. And it’s not all rhetoric, the figures speak for themselves. In the year 2017, the online education industry was valued at a little over 65 Billion Dollars.
By the mid of 2021, before the pandemic was completely past its zenith, the industry had more than doubled in size to reach a valuation of over 146 Billion Dollars.
And the reports have suggested this explosive growth trajectory is not going to subside anytime soon. The e-learning industry is expected to reach record highs of over 238 Billion Dollars well within the next 5 years.
And contrary to popular perspectives it is not the Silicon Valley-backed digital learning platforms and websites that are pushing these valuation trends upwards, instead, the rapid adoption of e-learning technologies by well-established global universities is adding the most value to the e-learning industry.
And of course, lest we forget the unsung hero, the rapid expansion of internet infrastructure and rapidly rising broadband penetration is helping sustain the rapid growth of the online education industry. Highspeed internet is the very backbone of the e-learning sector because after all, it is broadband access that helped put the ‘online’ in online education in the first place.
The role of established internet service providers (ISPs), like Spectrum, in facilitating this epoch-changing shift in the education sector, cannot be stressed enough.
Now, that we have comprehensively discussed the saga of the rise of the virtual learning industry let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages that have made this mode of education so attractive to such a huge number of people in such a short period.
Let’s face it, traditional education was rigid. The overwhelming emphasis on discipline almost felt suffocating. Sometimes schools felt like prisons and teachers felt like prison guards. Online education has freed us from these disciplinarians.
You can attend classes in your shorts while eating if you want, and no one would care as long as you are performing. So, in a way, online education has shifted the focus of schools back to the pursuit of knowledge. It’s no wonder that online classes had a student satisfaction rate of over 70 percent.
Online education is largely self-paced, you can learn on your own time and your terms. Now, if you want to learn a new skill you do not have to go through the grind of enrolling in a degree college. You can just take courses online and earn legitimate certificates.
This is especially good news for mid-career professionals and other people who have to juggle sustenance responsibilities with their education. And the business world has figured this out.
And the best part is if you zone out during a lecture you can just choose to rewind it.
Let’s face it, universities in the West are much better when compared to their counterparts in the developing world. They had a head start. And before the advent of online education Millions of international students were forced to go through extremely lengthy visa and vetting processes if they wanted a taste of state-of-the-art education.
Virtually learning has removed this barrier. Today, Millions of international students are enrolled in programs at Western universities without having to leave the comfort of their homes.
A similar situation exists within developed countries as well. Several prestigious institutes are clustered in a few big cities, online education has opened up these meccas of knowledge for thousands of citizens living in the so-called peripheral areas of the country.
The reality is as clear as day, the future of education is online. The ease, flexibility, and convenience offered by this new form of education are just too good to pass.
Even established educational institutions have read the writing on the wall and have jumped on the bandwagon.
Don’t take my word for it, listen to the students; 95 percent of virtual learners say that they are likely to suggest the learning format to others.
And even though there are some genuine issues that the industry needs to address, they are not unresolvable fundamental issues, instead, they are mere hitches that will be tweaked out in years to come.