Givology Staff's Blog

Global Education and Technology: How The Pandemic Changed Education Forever

This is the first issue of a recurring series which will examine more closely the state of EdTech in different countries around the world.

Along with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in early March came the sudden global shift from the classroom to the virtual setting, as schools around the world were forced to shut down and develop plans to teach students through online learning platforms. More than 1.2 billion children worldwide transitioned to virtual learning as a result of the mass school closures, marking the largest “online” movement in history. While online and virtual learning have traditionally been used in temporary situations such as the aftermath of a natural disaster, the longevity of our current crisis has generated speculation on what lasting effects it will have on the post-pandemic era, as well as the possibility of remote education being a viable alternative option for the future. Though some are in favor of an immediate return to the physical classroom, others are more hopeful about the future of integrated technology in our global education market.

Prior to the pandemic, there were already some shifts in investing in education technologies. According to the 2019 Metaari Global Learning Technology Investment Patterns, $16.3 billion and $18.7 billion were invested in learning technologies worldwide in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In those two years alone, the total amount invested in EdTech companies was greater than that for the 20-year period between 1998 and 2017.

Many forms of EdTech, such as video conferencing tools, virtual tutoring, and online learning markets, have seen a significant rise in usage since the start of the pandemic. In response to the surging demand, many online learning platforms have offered free services, including BYJU, a Bangalore-based educational technology company that is currently the world’s highest valued EdTech company. In China, shortly following the outbreak of the virus in January/early February, the government instructed a quarter of a billion students to resume their learning through Tencent classroom, an app that gathers course resources from educational institutions and teachers. Other companies such as Lark, a Singapore-based collaboration software, and Alibaba, a Chinese technology company, have also bolstered their capabilities to provide their services to students doing online learning.

The growth in education technology doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as the market for online education is projected to reach $370 billion by 2026. North America (15.5%), Western Europe (29.0%), the Middle East (20.2%), and Africa (40.2%) are expected to see the most rapid growth rates. Many believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge globally, drastically changing education for future generations. “I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education,” says Wang Tao, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and Tencent Education. There are many benefits of learning through an education system with both offline learning and e-learning, including added flexibility and self-paced learning, improved virtual communication and collaboration, and a broader, global perspective.

There are, however, several challenges that need to be taken into consideration regarding online learning. Foremost is the digital divide between students who have access to technological devices and reliable internet and those who don’t. This divide varies greatly by country — for instance, 95% of students in Norway have an easily accessible computer for their schoolwork, while this is only the case for 34% of students in Indonesia. The divide will need to be adequately addressed in order for the full potential of EdTech to be leveraged.

Another obstacle has to do with the efficiency, or lack thereof, of the current online learning model on younger children. Research has shown that younger students need a structured learning environment because they are more easily distracted than their older counterparts. To combat this issue, schools should be looking to utilize various collaboration tools and engagement methods that promote inclusion, engagement, and intellectual stimulation.

Looking before the pandemic and imagining the future after, it is clear that the purpose of online education has changed. While it was previously used to provide education to those unable to participate in the physical classroom, it has now become a legitimate learning option for everyone who has a digital device and a connection. Now, there is a clear path for the next generation of online learners to continue their education with the threat of COVID-19 not being a factor.


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