The Usage of Smart Technology to Support Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Firas Sarhan, Director of Centre of Excellence for Technology Enhanced Care (CETEC), Barnet Southgate College

Firas Sarhan, Director of Centre of Excellence for Technology Enhanced Care (CETEC), Barnet Southgate College

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a huge disruption into our daily life, in particular, education; we noticed severe measures taken to protect students and teachers, which led to the rapid closure of the school, colleges, and universities in the early weeks and months of the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, a lot of countries across the globe applies new measures to deliver teaching in a safe environment, i.e., enforcement of social distancing measures within the educational establishment as well as permanent changes to the traditional modes of education delivery, i.e., moving from face to face to online and distant learning to help and support students to achieve and meet their learning outcomes, so it guarantees progression within their educational life.

COVID19 forced a lot of countries into strict measures of lockdown, which resulted negatively on the productivity of educational establishment as well as the impact on the wider community which resulted in the negative impact of the economic productivity as parents and carers are forced to balance home life with a work commitment. Furthermore, the impact of COVID 19 and the lockdown highlighted the inequalities within the society as some families are disadvantaged economically to be able to secure the resources to support their children's educational needs during the rapid changes of the delivery modes of education.

A lot of the countries' educational establishments adopted online and distant learning programs to continue curriculum delivery and to ensure sustainability and high quality and flexibility within teaching and learning approaches to all students across different levels from schooling to university courses. Ethically and morally, this transition of educational delivery forced the educational institution to ensure that all students will benefit from this transition and reduce the gap to access to education and support the fewer advantage families to have the appropriate resources to ensure continuity of education for their children.

“There is a need to train all teachers and lecturers on the appropriate use of online software to ensure the success of the transition.”

Being an advocate of technology used to deliver education effectively, there are few changes that we need to consider and address to ensure the success of this transition as well as benefit students across the socioeconomic levels. There is a need to train all teachers and lecturers on the appropriate use of online software to ensure the success of the transition and to use the new approach as a method to enrich the student experience of interactive education. It is essential that government and educational establishments spend on resources that will enrich the infrastructure that will support online and distance education; this investment should be both on manpower and on the development of software that will address the needs of students, teachers, and lecturers. Equal investment should be on the students of providing them with the appropriate resources to facilitate distance learning and to ensure their engagement with their lessons and lecturers. Student support is of huge importance to undertake their educational needs, and we should consider new approaches to the integration of education and technology together. We should move away from already established systems o software to deliver education. We should be developing systems that meet the needs of students and able to adapt to ensure success. Institutions should invest time and resources in giving the teachers the opportunity to understand how educational technology work and how it will fit to support education to ensure its use to be fit for purpose.

It is essential that institutions invest in the development of staff so they can become more interactive with technology and innovative in exploring new approaches to meet the needs of their students; we should be moving away from prescribed systems that we can use to more of adapted individualized systems that could ensure student engagement and involvement on more of a holistic approach to learning where students and lecturers could be engaged in a developmental process that will ensure success so both lecturers and students could reach their goals. It is evident that COVID19 is going to be with us for months, if not years. Therefore, investment should be directed towards building the capacity of teachers and lecturers, so technology becomes an integral part of their blended educational delivery method.

Moving into distance learning and online teaching requires up-to-date technology resources that is accessible to all students and teachers, but this is not the case all the time. As I mentioned earlier, there is disadvantaged students who lack the ability to have internet connections or the hardware to fully engage in distant learning. It is important that there is a mixed approach to education were a mixed curriculum approach should be adapted so new guidance could be applied to student assessment, i.e., pre-recorded lessons or educational activities that students can follow. This new mixed approach will be required to have the correct equipment and environment to support and ongoing training for staff required. It is important to note that teachers, lecturers, and students should be an integral part of these changes to ensure their engagement and involvement with the new approaches to education. There should be a direct open communication between institutions, teachers, and lecturers, and student representative to ensure that all is working in partnership and collaboration to meet the demands of the challenges ahead of us all as some teachers and lecturers could view and see these changes as a threat to their role within the institution and in the teaching of students.

Finally, it is crucial that government and policymakers must be responsive to the needs and demands of changes that COVID 19 may impose on us all in the future; the concept of collaborative work and partnership should be the essence and the heart of driving the concept of online and distant learning forward.

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