By Dr Anjusha Gawande*
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” …
Since its inception, the year 2020 has impacted the lives of every individual in one way or other, as the COVID-19 pandemic had begun to spread its negative impact from one country to another, one state to another, one city to another, and one family to another.
I remember the month of January, reading news about this catastrophic start of pandemic spread in China, that time we did not even imagine that it will spread globally and slow down wheels of life across the globe from east to west. This pandemic has impinged every sector including education. As a preventive measure, governments across the globe decided to shut down schools, colleges, and universities. Subsequently, pre-primary to higher education, all the levels of education institutions stopped operating without any certainty.
Largely, India has 1.6 million schools including primary, secondary schools, 52,000 higher education institutes including universities, colleges, standalone universities. Unexpectedly, the important and crucial activities like admissions, examinations, entrance test, evaluation, the teaching-learning process including the interactions were paused and jeopardized, moreover due to external factors.
We all know that mitigation plans were never planned to alleviate such a situation at least in the education sector. This pandemic forcefully taught us a lesson to be prepared for the back-up in the future. Certainly, along with building a back-up for our system, a holistic initiative is needed to develop innovative, sustainable education systems, to accomplish the requirements of students, teachers, and all the stakeholders of education.
Precisely, technology played a crucial role in this pandemic. All the stakeholders in education initiated leveraging the technology, though it was inadvertent. Technology has enabled in resuming the daily educational activities of teaching-learning and administrative tasks like attendance, assignments, examinations, etc. We all were introduced to various digital platforms like Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, Zoom, etc. This situation has proven that digital learning platforms are alternative, effective, and beneficial for both educators and learners to ensure that the learning continues interactively.
Understanding the explicit need and efficacy, imbibing these digital tools is the way forward. Having said that, the selection of the right tools is an equally important decision. The selection of digital tools can be achieved based on the veracity and quality of tools along with the content, audience, purpose, and objective of teaching-learning sessions. The next section helps in understanding a few of the digital platforms/tools that can be used by educators and students for an effective journey of teaching-learning.
According to G2, (Tech Marketplace) which has published over 1,000,000 reviews about thousands of software products and professional services to help in better technology decisions. It has rated the following top 10 Digital learning platforms:
Canvas, Khan Academy, Nearpod, GoReact, Discovery Education Inc, Renaissance Accelerated Reader, Newsela, Pear Deck, Alta, and McGraw-Hill. Each of these platforms has unique features and real-world use cases.
Canvas enables easy integration of simple tasks such as accessing online resources and teacher-selected sites, to completing assignments that incorporate digital peer and teacher reviews. The platform is easily accessible since its hosted on the cloud.
Khan Academy provides exercises for practice, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that allows students to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. Interestingly, Khan Academy is a non-profit and they believe in free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
Nearpod platform allows teachers to make every lesson interactive with dynamic media and formative assessment by integrating with PowerPoints, Google Slides, and YouTube videos. Educators can make their students actively participate with live videos and applications that use virtual reality.
GoReact is a software that supports to provide feedback on the videos made by students. Students can record their presentations, performances, and demonstrations without any additional equipment. It is more useful in language training, communication, teacher preparation, nursing education, and performing arts.
Discovery Education is globally known for its digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning. It supports digital textbooks, multimedia content, and professional development.
Renaissance’s Accelerated Reader is a program designed for the reading practice of students while engaging in quizzes and activities. It provides more than 200,000 fiction and nonfiction books and articles at a wide range of levels.
Newsela platform integrates different third-party content like primary-source documents, news articles, and more to support teachers and students learn about any subject, as a replacement for more traditional textbooks.
Pear Deck is a platform where teachers can create interactive lessons, presentations, and assessments to keep their students engaged, while teachers monitor students and the progress of the entire class.
Knewton’s Alta platform is supporting personalized learning for the students for multiple courses such as math, statistics, economics, and chemistry. The value-add is that it identifies the knowledge gap of students & also provides remediation immediately.
McGraw-Hill is a toolkit of learning resources designed for teachers. Teachers can create assignments & it automatically grades the assignments and quizzes.
The digital era is going to be an integral part of human life. These digital learning platforms support the day-to-day teaching-learning process. The selection and effective use of these digital platforms will act as a stepping stone in building the future of education.
*Assistant Professor, at MIT World Peace University, School of Education (M.Ed. Department), Pune