Education Technology has become the new normal across the globe as a circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic. The locking down of schools in South Africa, has most certainly hastened the shift to online learning (BusinessLive, 2021).
For a country like South Africa where more than 70% of students live in working-class environments with limited access to the Internet, the future of education driven by technology may seem bleak. Let’s also not forget the need for social stimulation and real-life interactions previously integrated into the school day and which children need to experience if they are to develop social skills.
While we’ve seen many instances of parents or even entire school boards opting for alternative education routes such as Montessori or Waldorf education, almost every type or form of education has had to evolve to include some form of technology.
In this blog we review the way forward for South African education and look for clues of how EdTech will continue to influence South African education systems.
Breaking it up – education Technology can be broken up into two aspects:
- Virtual or “E” Learning and,
- Technology oriented classrooms
What these two aspects can in application be very different, or one in the same – set up to work interchangeably.
As individual aspects, virtual learning is what most students in South Africa have been experiencing since the first COVID-lockdowns in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic.
Studies almost overnight were moved online through learning portals and classroom websites, as well as through conference call tools like Skype, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. This immediate need for online learning has pushed the South African Department of Basic Education to really integrate technology into learning throughout the country. However, with accessibility issues still a real issue, there was and still is no guarantee that online or virtual learning can be accomplished long-term for the general population of school-going children.
Technology-oriented classrooms offer something a bit different. In this instance, we see the integration of technology into classrooms. And even though many schools have re-opened, teachers and schools have continued to adopt and adapt to new ways of teaching and utilising technology devices that make learning more interactive and engaging.
These tools include digital whiteboards, computer literacy classes, coding classes, integrated learning with student laptops and learning portals, online textbooks, online quizzes, the use of mobile phones in class and more. It can be said that the future of education has arrived and “it’s gone mobile” (Mail & Guardian, 2021).
New challenges for parents
As teachers continue to adopt these new forms of education, the pressure now moves to parents to teach their children how to use technology safely and responsibly, while holding onto the core principles of real-life interaction and what some are referring to as life/tech balance. For those that can afford it and have access to technology, virtual learning will continue to gain popularity. With schools like the CURRO Group and UCT Online High School paving the way for both virtual and integrated learning, more parents are expected in future to opt for an education solution that’s easy to access and gives their children real-time experience in learning how to manage technology.
Sadly, the future of EdTech on the whole might be bleak with a slow growth rate if our schools and students are not properly enabled. At this point looks like it will only ever be an integrated part of learning, unless the government finds a way to adequately fund and roll-out connectivity across the country.
How has the IMM Graduate School adapted?
Fortunately, the IMM Graduate School was an early adopter of online learning technology and therefore ready for action when the pandemic hit. As South Africa’s largest private distance learning education provider for over 60 years, the IMM has long ago embraced technology in order to support students across multiple provinces and international borders.
Our academic staff could therefore quickly adapt and almost overnight were able to move all student activities online. We are continuously embracing new technology and looking for ways to make learning more enjoyable and interactive for our students.
We are looking forward to the future of education driven by new and improved EdTech.