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“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” —Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Every few years, extraordinary events and unexpected breakthroughs leave us awe-struck by the enormity of what they achieve, and the possibilities they promise.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the havoc it has wreaked on both the global economy, and healthcare systems what is emerging as a ‘breakthrough’ across everyday life and industry domains is the spirit of human resilience. Not only the indefatigable energy with which frontline workers in hospitals and other medical institutions across the world are continuing with their care and fight against the pandemic’s further spread but also the ingenuity, agility and adaptability that individuals, families, organizations and institutions are displaying in the new abnormal.
Nowhere is this more starkly visible than in the education space. The pandemic forced schools to shut down in about 191 countries  impacting 94 percent of the world’s student population—a whopping 1.6 billion learners. Their staying at home has seen parents/guardians and educators unearthing and embracing new ways to facilitate the learning experience outside the classroom setting, by virtual means, through remote access.
Happening years after hotly contested debates around whether technology should play a part at all in facilitating, improving, and expanding access to education for learners worldwide, the move to virtual and large-scale distance learning has happened no doubt due to the pandemic. Not only have learners across education levels moved en masse to an experience of learning starkly different from what they have ever had, they have done so quickly, some literally overnight.
Although not fully evident, a large reason why such a mammoth shift has taken place remarkably smoothly for millions of teachers, parents and educators around the world is thanks to advanced technology and interactive platforms. Parents and guardians who have been juggling work and ‘school at home’ have felt supported by the more expansive and collaborative styles of tech-enabled teaching and learning as these have not only made classes more immersive but also more personalized.
With a little help from AI. Learning platforms built on ML and AI technologies are able to provide students with fun ways of assessing their own conceptual understanding in various disciplines while providing instructors with real time feedback on where each student is on the learning and comprehension curve. This not only inspires students to aspire to do more, without the pressure of rote learning, but also provides teachers with valuable insights on which students are lagging, on what concepts and why.
In the post-COVID world, I see this model evolving further to help teachers and instructors everywhere tailor-make lessons to correctly fit the requirements of every student. So, instead of being an undifferentiated collectivity of learners, a class will be finally taught the way it should be—customized and personalized to each individual learner’s existing ability, so that every student achieves optimal outcomes.
The promise of such a possibility ties in perfectly with what students will need to be prepared for in the coming years, a radical change in how courses will be taught, a greater onus on self-driven learning and a greater emphasis by educational institutions everywhere on those competencies that make us distinctly human—creativity, empathy, and the capacity for enquiry and self-reflection.
I also believe that AI can also play a significant role in overcoming the inequities that currently separate the privileged high-income learners from their underprivileged and low-income counterparts by enabling learning in any language, anywhere, anytime. Among some of the recent breakthroughs in AI technologies is the proven use of educational data to support learners in emergencies and crises, the deployment of image recognition technologies to facilitate access to global learning resources; AI-supported mentoring for underprivileged learners based on individual learning pattern recognition tools; and diagnostic technologies for learning difficulties.
It goes without saying that expanding access to good quality education to all learners across the world promises immense gains to organizations. To have an ever larger and diverse talent pool in the post-COVID world will ensure that companies across verticals can be certain of finding the competence they want, already trained in the technologies of tomorrow through an immersion in next-gen education today. What more could we ask for? A win-win situation for all.