Schools are closed for almost 90% of the world’s students. In response, education has moved online (though, of course, not all students – nor schools – have access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet). Google searches for the term “online classes” increased by over 200% in March 2020 as desperate parents frantically scrambled to support their children’s education during lockdown.

Some worry about a growing digital divide. As well as access to the internet being patchy, not all teachers (or students) are properly trained for quality online learning. Educators have often been forced, at incredibly short notice, to move courses online that were designed for offline teaching.

Nevertheless, some point to opportunities as well as challenges. There had already been a growing trend towards online learning, and our experience during the pandemic may accelerate some of those trends.

Want to learn more about how the pandemic is impacting education? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? We had a comment from Liz, who says that “There are things that an inspired teacher can achieve that you do not get from online learning.” What do parents have to keep in mind to improve home schooling?

To get a response, we put Liz’s comment to Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek. How would she respond?

I would like to emphasise […] that online learning cannot and will not replace face-to-face teaching – least of all an inspiring teacher. However, online learning can be a useful complement to face-to-face teaching. And, of course, online learning is currently of special importance due to schools being closed.

And a vital second point: I think it is important to take some pressure off the parents. Nobody expects them to replace our pedagogically and professionally trained teachers. They wouldn’t have the time for that either – many have to work at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. I am convinced that your most important task now, as parents, is to provide children with security; to be approachable for them and not to leave them alone with their questions and fears. In principle, a good and reliable daily structure can also ensure stability and contribute to a suitable learning environment.

As the German federal government, we try to provide the best possible support here. For example, many schools have so far not been able to access a state-owned school cloud. That is why we are now making the school cloud of the Hasso Plattner Institute, funded by my ministry, available to these schools if they are interested. To date, only pilot schools have had access as part of a funding project. The school cloud enables schoolchildren and teachers to access teaching materials across schools and subjects – anytime and anywhere. Partner and teamwork is also possible. This enables a kind of ‘digital class network’ even in the current situation of home teaching.

Even before the pandemic hit and schools and universities were closed, our reader Luca was calling for greater flexibility and digitalisation in education. Is the COVID-19 pandemic now accelerating existing trends towards online learning? Could our experience with online learning now permanently change our education systems, universities and schools over the long term?

How would Germany’s education minister, Anja Karliczek, respond?

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been forced to see where we really stand with regards to digitisation – including in education – and where we have to catch up. At the same time, we are experiencing the enormous and impressive possibilities that digital tools offer us.

One of the most obvious changes has been the increase in remote working and, of course, this shift is also evident in digital teaching opportunities in schools and universities. Pupils are currently trying out many new formats of digital learning together with their teachers. Some things will prove their worth, others will probably be discarded later, because they will perhaps only be necessary during the current exceptional situation. But we will certainly take a lot of important lessons for the implementation of online learning from this time.

Above all, we should see this as an opportunity: If we learn practical lessons about how useful online learning tools can be, this can contribute to a real change of mentality in Germany. For me, it is very clear: After the crisis, it is imperative that we push the digitisation of schools in our country more vigorously than before.

For another perspective, we put the same question to Yana Toom, a liberal Member of the European Parliament from Estonia (one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of online learning). In 2018, she authored a report on digital education for the EU Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education.

What would she say to Luca’s comment?

We also put the same comment to Liz Sproat, Head of Education, EMEA, at Google. What would she say?

Finally, we asked academic Kyungmee Lee, Co-Director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University, and an expert on online learning. How would she respond?

How is coronavirus changing the way we learn? What do parents have to keep in mind to improve home schooling? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) AlexNGM; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Karliczek (c) BMBFLaurence Chaperon
Editorially independent content supported by: Google. See our FAQ for more details.



22 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Is inevitably increasing the gap in educational attainment between those affluent enough to have good internet access, and those that dont.
    Cannot be seen as a long term solution.

  2. avatar

    Learn? Our kids’ education is in ruins.

  3. avatar

    Wi-fi, screens and isolation to early childhood in stead of gardens & natural space to team play thus become skilled creative balanced fulfilled persons able to generate true prosperity and lead the world… Plenty of scientists report concentration & other serius problems to kids from this technology. So, digitalization for schools can wait up to 15th of age. Please better focus on adults that are unable to use the basics of microsoft office or send a mail via smart phone.

  4. avatar

    Let’s keep it as an opportunity even if like every opportunity, they are different.

  5. avatar

    I’m a student and currently have classes at home. Honestly, most of my lecturers are young and know how to use technology so its not that big of a change regarding the actual lecture itself… but what I miss so much is the interaction with other students, both for social but also for learning purposes… its ok to listen to lectures from home, but its lonely and boring… I cant wait to be back to normal to be honest! I do also hope though, that we will keep some parts of this digitalisation for after the crisis. Having recorded lecturers makes it so much easier to combine work and studies for erxample, because you’re so much more flexible!

  6. avatar

    I don’t think most of my professors have ever seen a computer before, our lectures are a joke these days. But my sister has apparently had really good experiences with these virtual classrooms and stuff – i guess it all depends on the people that are using them

  7. avatar

    It was a clear, though understandable mistake to close schools
    It impacted the poorest in society, increasing the attainment gap and exposed many to abuse and hunger.
    For middle classes and the wealthy it was of marginal impact..but imperative that schools open for all.

  8. avatar

    It is anti-social and isolating. Children need human contact and human interaction. They are sociable beings not robots. Plus the quality teaching is not there. Rubbish on all counts.

  9. avatar

    My son says he feels like he is learning nothing with online learning.

  10. avatar

    Our children can’t learn properly, we are no teachers. They lack socializing, bad for their development.

  11. avatar

    Unless education is re-started soon, the disadvantaged will continue to be negatively affected, widening the attainment gap between rich and poor.

  12. avatar

    For younger children this is catastrophic, a very poor substitute to school learning and life, with consequences that will last for years. Luckily Cyprus is refusing to close its schools this year.

  13. avatar

    Speaking to other parents I get the impression the quality of online lessons differs enormously, and has more to do with whether individual teachers taking the initiative to adapt the syllabus to the new reality rather a concerted move towards a new era. It’s going to take a lot of time and investment to get everyone up to speed.

  14. avatar

    Not sure whether it’s changing the way we learn, but it’s definitely highlighted the disparity between public and private schools, rich and poor.

  15. avatar

    More computers and tablets aren’t the solution. Both teachers and students need the right skills to turn online learning into something effective.

  16. avatar

    It’s definitely shaking up current education models, but are students truly benefiting? Can an online experience really replace a real-life lesson?

  17. avatar

    I hope this is temporary and we soon go back to the way it was. I miss seeing people and no matter how good my teachers are there’s no substitute to seeing them in the flesh.

  18. avatar

    Too early to say. We’re all adapting to the new reality, but not sure it will last once the pandemic is under control.

  19. avatar

    Covid has exposed the digital gaps in all our societies. That needs to be addressed before we even consider online learning.

  20. avatar

    EU should be more involved in (cross border) digital education. Digital Erasmus!

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