Is the Reality of Learning Virtual?

Is the Reality of Learning Virtual?

Is the Reality of Learning Virtual? 1000 665 academii.co.uk
The pandemic changed the world overnight.

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world overnight and whilst the general population talks of ‘getting back to normal’, we explore whether learning in the virtual world is the way forward.

Online learning isn’t a new phenomenon. MOOCs (mass open online courses) originated in 2008, giving millions of people the chance to study with top universities around the world. These courses are available to anyone, usually with no entry requirements and although they don’t always lead to formal qualifications, learners can gain knowledge in a huge range of areas.

MOOCs are a great, cheap way to consolidate learning or study new subject areas, often with world-famous universities, and all from the comfort of your own home.

There are a few drawbacks of MOOCs. Often there is a lack of any kind of recognition available and they can be long and arduous to complete. But it’s not always the formal accreditation or lengthy study that’s needed, particularly for entry level learners in the workplace. Sometimes just getting through a short period of study is recognition enough though a certificate of completion is something tangible to add to and verify an individual’s learning record. Bite-sized, fun, and visual content helps to engage the learner from the word go.

MOOCs are a great, cheap way to consolidate learning or study new subject areas, often with world-famous universities, and all from the comfort of your own home.

As things edge back to face-to-face learning for the rest of the education world, a blended approach has had to be maintained in many school settings due to periods of isolation for many students and teachers.

Blended learning is an approach to education that combines online materials and opportunities to interact online, and with traditional classroom-based methods. It is not as innovative as it sounds, rather a natural result of the digital world sidling (and having to be embraced) into physical spaces. Many schools, further education colleges and universities will most likely keep a certain degree of blended learning with cost benefits and individual learners’ preferences dictating the decision.

But what does the future hold?

It’s no surprise that younger, digitally native generations show the most interest in online learning but people in the UK are generally behind their Australian and American counterparts in embracing it. This poses a threat, particularly to blue-collar workers in currently low-skilled, low-paid jobs where automation and digitisation are likely to happen faster.

We need to ensure online learning is easy-to-access, for example, using QR codes – a scan and learn approach. In addition, through reward and recognition, we need to ensure that people genuinely see and feel the benefits of continual learning and development.

Technology in learning has no end of possibilities and it is not going away. A recent report published by Future Learn features a survey where respondents were asked which technological innovations they would like to see in education by 2030*. One in three UK adults listed Virtual Reality, closely followed by Augmented Reality. This immersive approach is looked on favourable in terms of transforming the traditional approach of three years to learn something and only then applying it in a workplace to one of instant experiential education and immediate benefits for both the learner and employer.

A report published by PWC into the effectiveness of Virtual Reality for soft skills learning was overwhelmingly positive. The report highlights that learners were more focused, more emotionally connected and more confident as a result of Virtual Reality or V-learning as it is often referred. In addition, the report also states that V-learning will contribute $294 billion to the global economy by 2030.

This positive attitude towards Virtual Reality is exciting but it would be advantageous to embrace this technology early to ensure we get ahead of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The benefits of V-learning are plentiful for both individual learners and the wider economy, why wait until 2030 to develop it?

*The Future of Learning Report 2021, Future Learn.

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