Prior to COVID-19

Rewind the clock back to 2010 – exactly one decade ago. Prior to COVID-19, online learning was controlled by tech conglomorates like Udemy, edX, and Coursera. These were paid courses, given by third-party instructors who allowed students to learn at their own pace and time. The idea behind this was great – if students take control over their own learning, they'll be able to learn the material at a mastery level. Right?

As time passed, the idea of online learning excited everyone. Influential figures such as Bill & Melinda Gates endorsed the folks at Khan Academy, and it seemed like eLearning was starting to expand exponentially. While eLearning was an attractive method of learning for individuals who could afford such classes, the idea that eLearning could be done be integrated into public institutions seemed unfounded. There was absolutely no way that eLearning could replace the centuries-old traditional face-to-face classroom methods. Even if we were to have some sort of massive cultural/social shift towards technology, it would be impossible to encapsulate all students wtihin the private & public educational systems into a digtal platform. There are too many anomalies: not everyone has internet, not everyone has a computer, not everyone would be motivated, and students would fool around.

Now if we turn the clock forward to 2014, online education was a very real possibility. Despite being introduced in 1989 by University of Phoenix, online degrees emerged as popular alternatives to physical education settings. But still, these were college students who had the luxary of having the money to afford such programs. A young boy living in the basement of a stranger's house with his single mother could never have afforded a $1,000 online program. The idea of online learning on a massive digital scale to capture EVERY student was still a possibility that drifted into nothingness in 2014. Even in 2018, Forbes released an article stating that eLearning would never replace classroom learning anytime soon. In essence, the editor states that eLearning's benefits come only when it is used to cater content towards students, and it cannot replace the meaninful social interactions within the classroom.

Now if we refocus ourselves into the present, we've undergone a paradigm shift in education due to COVID-19. Social distancing measures have forced us to replace our previous traditional classroom methods with digital platforms to meet with our classes. Despite many predictions stating that eLearning wouldn't happen in a along time, it happened. The tables have now turned. Some prominent figures are saying that eLearning should replace classrooms. How should we react?

"Expert" Opinions

Governor Andrew Cuomo - NY (D)

Andrew Cuomo speaks at a virtual press briefing. (Image via NY Post)

New York teachers were surprised to hear Governor Andrew Cuomo's response on remote learning. On Tuesday, Cuomo made a statement in a press briefing on whether or not remote learning could replace traditional classroom methods, stating:

"The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms. Why? With all the technology you have?"

– Governor Andrew Cuomo

Not gonna lie, I was pretty surprised to hear this too – how have we made that shift in mentality so quickly from physical education settings to entirely virtual? The answer confounds reason. Nevertheless, Cuomo made a further statement regarding the partnership he plans to take on with the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to "reimagine" education in New York. If you ask me, it's pretty exciting stuff and something I'm really excited see in the future given Project Edutivity's position within this realm.

Will we really see a change in education in New York though? I mean, who knows; personally, I think COVID-19 is the biggest experiment in history that has high stakes.

Sal Khan, Khan Academy

If you haven't heard of Sal Khan, you've probably been living under a rock. He's the founder of the nonprofit Khan Academy and has reached over 20 million students with his work in digital education. Khan states that despite the challenges and obstacles distance learning may thrust towards us, there are some pretty neat things. More and more individuals are recognizing that there are digital tools that are at students' disposal, and teachers are starting to figure out how to leverage the balance between online tools and their own instruction. This is what he describes as "the silver lining" of the entire crisis. Still, despite the major influx of online users, Khan states:

"I’ve always said if I had to pick between an amazing teacher and amazing technology I would pick the amazing teacher every time. But the ideal is not having to pick and having the amazing technology empower the amazing teacher.”

– Sal Khan, Khan Academy

This is no surprise, as Khan has stated previously that the teacher is the root of an enriching education as opposed to the technology. Still, he explains that there is great promise with online education during this crisis.

President Trump & Secretary Betsy DeVos

A controversial figure within the educational sphere, Betsy DeVos has been a long time supporter of digital education. She's made statements in the past praising sophisticated technology that can "personalize" curriculums and cater material towards individuals. In fact, DeVos's husband made a big donation to K12, a network of online schools. To me, what's even more interesting is how President Trump and DeVos seem to be at a strife in terms of education. I was reading an article from the Washington Post the other day and President Trump said something interesing. He said:

Now, we found out that young people do extraordinarily well. That’s why I think we can start thinking about [opening] schools, but of course we’re ending the school season, so you wouldn’t be back for too long. I noticed where Purdue University, a great school in a great state, wants to open and have students come in. I think that’s correct. Some colleges, I think, I saw Harvard wants to have students come back in the fall. I would hope that they’d have students.

I think that the whole concept of computer learning is wonderful, but, it’s not, tele-learning, but it’s not the same thing as a being in a classroom in a great college or a college of any kind. College, university, there’s nothing. You can’t replace that. Hopefully they’re going to be coming back. Young people do very well with this horrible scourge. They do very well.

– Donald J. Trump

It's clear here that President Trump thinks that virtual learning should NOT serve as a replacement to traditional classroom learning. In many respects, I agree, but to a larger extent I disagree. I think there is a large learning curve we [students] need to get over. Once we get used to things going, we'll be able to act swiftly.

Final Thoughts?

It turns out, I don't think online learning will replace traditional classroom learning – the idea is still too unreachable and unreal. However, eLearning will make a breakthrough within COVID-19's time frame. We've already kinda seen a breakthrough with companies like Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate. While these aren't perfectly refined technologies, all breakthroughs don't happen in an instant. A year from now, we'll see the impact that COVID-19 has made on online learning, but for now, everything will seem to blend with time.

Join us in the Fight!

At inGenius X, it is our duty to help in any way, shape, or form. Now more than ever, initiatives such as Project Edutivity should come into play as keynotes during this health and educational crisis. To learn more about what we do, check out inGeniusX.org!

We at Project Edutivity look forward to collaborating together on more digital tools to help empower students during this time of need. This collaboration will extend past any one initiative, and will involve the help of third party resources.