Thursday, April 18, 2024

Beyond the Books: Benefits of Regulating Online Learning Tools

Beyond the Books- Benefits of Regulating Online Learning Tools
Photo: Unplash.com

Online learning is as old as 1989 when the University of Phoenix used a model called CompuServe, a consumer online learning program. However, the majority of higher education up until very recently was mainly undertaken in person, on campus, by attending lectures and classes. A major zeitgeist in online learning happened during the COVID-19 pandemic when all levels of education were forced to pivot to delivering their curriculum online as billions of people around the globe were forced into government-mandated lockdowns. Whether you studied an online EdD in Educational Leadership or were in middle school, you were forced to study from home via video conferencing and other purpose-built digital education tools such as Google Classroom. 

UNESCO Report

However, the rapid shift to online learning and digital education tools had unintended consequences, which a UNESCO report called “An Ed-TechTragedy” explores. Some learners were left behind and unable to adapt to online learning, and the report suggests that some people had reduced educational outcomes. 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as with proper regulation, online learning tools can be harnessed for positive outcomes as well. This informative article will explore how regulation can be possible and the results of regulating online learning tools that can be achieved. Read on to learn more.

Why No Regulation of Online Learning?

A significant cause for the lack of regulation of online learning tools is the pace at which they were developed, driven by the sheer necessity to keep students learning during the pandemic. So many educational institutions had to pivot to online learning within a matter of months. This is not sufficient time for an interactive, learning, and adapting-based approach to develop software and learning platforms that typically would take years of ongoing development. As a result of this rapid development, some did not operate properly or were not tailored to the diverse learning styles of different students. As such, some people struggled to use them or couldn’t adapt.

Tech Education Disparity 

Furthermore, online learning tools further highlighted the gap between the affluent and people with low incomes. Those who could afford devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, webcams, microphones, and other hardware that enabled online learning had no issues accessing remote education. While those on low or no incomes struggled to access learning during the lockdown period, unable to afford devices or even internet access. This meant that disadvantaged learners were left behind. 

It also meant that private schools, who were able to afford rapid investment into online learning, with their considerable budgets, adapted better than the public sector, further driving a wedge in the educational disparity in the country between the haves and have-nots. 

What Regulation Can Achieve 

With proper regulation, online learning can be a significant benefit. Remote learning can be made accessible and achievable to all people if educational institutions properly invest in technology and devices for students. The government has a role to play here, as it can both regulate the sector and fund providers to ensure that no student is left behind again. 

Proper regulation can also ensure that all digital learning tools are fit for purpose, cater to all learning styles, and undergo iterative development processes that mean they are tested and continuously improved based on student and teacher feedback and input. 

We recommend that governments, schools, colleges, and other educational providers invest in better regulations and improved investment in remote learning to ensure an equitable and fair playing field for all students, regardless of income or life circumstances.

Tech Companies Role

We cannot avoid mentioning tech giants in this process. Giant computer, internet, and tech companies like Google, Meta, Microsoft, Apple, and IBM are hugely profitable and influential in this space. They have a social corporate responsibility as massive tech entities to advocate for, fund, and influence the online learning space.

For instance, tech companies could support accessibility and inclusion of all students. They can also support initiatives that lower the cost of access to digital learning tools for disadvantaged students. They can champion the development of free or low-cost online learning platforms, hardware, and tools to make online learning accessible to all families in the US. 

 

Centre Teachers Input

Finally, another cause for concern with online learning tools is that their development and implementation often left some teachers’ voices out of the mix. Some teachers struggled with poorly designed and implemented online learning tools alongside the students. Regulation of online learning that centered teachers’ voices in the design, development, delivery, and evaluation of remote learning platforms, software, and tools can ensure that they are easy to utilize and user-friendly and that teachers are comfortable using them to support student learning best. 

In Summary

This informative article discusses the advantages of regulating online learning tools to help avoid the mistakes made during the pandemic. Regulation can improve accessibility, equitability, and promote fair access to remote learning for all students, and will help to narrow the divide between the affluent and those on low or no incomes. It also aims for online learning that is fit for purpose, adequately developed, and considers the needs and wants of teachers and students. 

Published by: Nelly Chavez

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