The COVID-19 Pandemic: Revolutionizing Learning Norms

March 20, 2020
The COVID-19 Pandemic: Revolutionizing Learning Norms

As the COVID-19 global pandemic flows and ebbs like a massive tidal wave across the planet, more and more locations are going into lock-down, quarantine and isolation. As more and more schools around the nation are forced to close their doors, they are adapting by changing portions of their coursework into online learning modules. This allows these educational institutions to retain their own students, while at the same time, potentially opening the doors for an increased opportunity for more and more students from around the world who are looking for online learning alternatives.  

While this may be challenging for some students who are not yet accustomed to important factors such as time management or other relevant skills, this has been a great boon to students around the world who have been looking for a greater number of opportunities for learning online. Those students and educational institutions that do successfully adapt to the current global pandemic and ensuing economic downturn will all be in a much better position to capitalize even after the current global crises have been successfully resolved.  

The Benefits of Online Education for Students

Let’s first start with the basics. Generally speaking, what are the benefits of learning online? We can expand that context to ‘what are the benefits of taking online classes’? There have been many developments in online learning initiatives and the numbers don’t lie. Statista reports the global online learning market is growing tremendously each year with it being projected to surpass over $200 billion U.S by 2022. 

Flexible Environment and Routine

For starters, you don’t have to worry anymore about catching the bus or being late to classes. For those who have fixed online class schedules, it’s as simple as waking up later than usual, making yourself your first morning brew, and clocking in. But if your teacher insists on turning your video on, then perhaps you have to allow a little more time in sprucing up–above the waist at the very least. But if your online learning module is just about completing your tasks and submitting them at the end of the day, then you are in full control of your daily study routine.

Learn at Your Own Pace and Style

Some students just can’t function well in a traditional setting and their class performance shows it. People are too quick to judge some students that way without realizing that we all just learn differently. Learning online means not only you are in full control of your daily routine, but also the way you learn. With the help of the internet, you can pull up all the resources and visual aids you need that’ll help you learn more productively. 

Save More Money

Since you don’t have to worry anymore about missing the bus or train, you can surely save more money. You also don’t need to fret about having enough lunch money or packing lunch even as it all takes is at trot to the fridge.

Protecting Yourself from the Coronavirus Epidemic

Many governments and academic institutions were quick to decide that the best way to protect students and to continue their schooling is to move classes online. This not only protects you but the community and global population. With no vaccine in production and distribution possible any time soon, the best way to flatten the rate of transmission is for everyone to stay home.

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The Challenges of Online Education for Students

Online learning has been shunned over for decades, with it being around as early as the 90’s and yet few strides were made to develop and improve online learning platforms altogether. Institutions of higher learning require a brick and mortar location to truly qualify as a language-conducive environment.  

Also, emotions and socializing play a great deal in learning productivity for many students, in which case on-site interaction is the only way to guarantee that. That being said, there have always been numerous obstacles for students, both within the educational institutions themselves and more notably perhaps, in the many online educational collaboration sites.

Sudden Change in Routine

For many college and university students, online and off, among the biggest challenges they face are time management skills. Since many of these students have been at home for the entirety of their life, it can be difficult to realize that suddenly, they are personally responsible for quite literally every action that they take. Making it to morning classes can be a challenge, as can finding the requisite time needed to study for final exams. Add in the fact that many of these students will now also have to find the necessary time for cooking, cleaning and other chores that may previously have been handled by relatives, and it can easily become overwhelming. 

Some Subjects Can’t Be Productively Taught Online

There are some things that just have to be experienced to understand more fully. There are many instances within an education where a student may need principles, theories and other concepts laid out for them in order to be able to fully understand them. There is a definitive lack of personal interaction when getting an education online, that can make it exceptionally challenging for some of these students. Though given the proper motivation, these challenges are not impossible to overcome, but will be demanding and difficult for some individuals. 

Foreign Language Learning

The trouble with learning a foreign language online exclusively whether through translation apps and online syllabuses is obviously, the lack of interpersonal communication. Speaking a language is a social endeavor and one can only progress so much alone through whatever means, be it offline or digital. The best way to really learn any language is to practice it firsthand with a teacher/tutor, other language learners, and native speakers. Learning online in today’s environment just happens to be one of the many avenues there is to effective language learning. Peer-to-peer learning can be done through Skype, but some students inherently learn more productively through on-site interaction. 

Discussion-Heavy and Equipment-Reliant Subjects

From humanities subjects such as philosophy, literature, political science to STEM subjects such as chemistry, biology, mathematics, they all require on-site interaction wherein the students can immediately ask questions and the teacher can provide immediate feedback. This can still be achieved online but it’s hard to demand full attention from students if they’re currently in too comfortable environments. Also, STEM subjects that require laboratory equipment and hands-on resources can’t really transplant the same learning method online.

Isolation Can Lead to Mental Health Issues

If there is any consolation to be found here, it is that these students will not be alone. As self-isolation, social distancing and even quarantines become more commonplace, more and more students will be facing the same situation and come up with more viable solutions. Already, the many more traditional “brick and mortar” educational institutions, including many colleges and universities, are working hand in hand with their students as they establish an increasing presence online. 

Online forums for students not only within the university systems, but also on a great many of the educational collaboration websites online, will allow these students the opportunity to discuss their concerns with other students, professors and even professionals who can provide examples pertaining directly to the subject matter and help students to learn quicker and more efficiently online. 

Successful Online Learning Strategies 

One of the first concerns of any of the students getting an online education will be “learning how to learn online” more efficiently. Ultimately, each and every student will have to come up with their own solutions based on their individual learning environments. However, there are some key points that can and should be considered in order to maximize the potential to gain a viable education and to increase the ability of the student to learn online. 

Removing Distractions

Doing away with distractions is imperative to a successful online learning experience. That means no social media, watching irrelevant videos, and streaming while you’re currently having online class sessions. Playing a favorite video game online is not going to be conducive to learning in most cases. There will always be some distractions that are unavoidable. These may be in the form of sirens up and down the street, neighborhood dogs barking or even just noisy neighbors. But these can be mitigated if the student makes a learning-conducive environment. 

Developing A Consistent and Productive Schedule

Eating, showering and other personal needs can be a distraction. These activities should be scheduled and partaken in before or after the online courses have begun. These distractions may seem simple enough, and not bad in and of their own accord, but when they all add up, there can be a substantial loss for the online student. This is all part of a much larger concept known as ‘time management. 

Making the Best of Current Technologies, Online Resources, and Situation

Make sure that the neighbors, the roommates and any other people who may tend to interfere, know which hours the do-not-disturb sign is posted for a reason. Music on the other hand, can be as much of a learning aid online as it can a distraction, but make sure not to get caught up in searching all of the latest and greatest YouTube videos while working to receive an education online. 

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

With so many communication technologies available now, it’s hard to argue why communication would be an obstacle. The exception of course is for students around the world who don’t have internet access and even smartphones and home computers. Nevertheless, it’s essential to establish consistent communication between you, your peers, and your teachers to make the best of your online learning experience and even stave off the effects of isolation the more you communicate. 

Localization and Online Collaborative Education Websites 

Cultural sensitivities have long been a major concern for college and university campuses around the world, more in some locations than in others. The basic principles of cultural sensitivity are similar online, though for a slightly different reason. In the case of online collaborative educational websites, the concept of cultural sensitivity is related to a more diverse construct known as “localization” or “localization strategies”.  
At their core, cultural sensitivities focus largely on the ability to interact without committing offense based on a better understanding of cultural and societal norms and standards. At the root core of localization strategies, is a much broader and more wide-ranging awareness of local language and culture in addition to other factors as well. This is going to be an especially important subject for those educational institutions that are looking to establish a viable presence online and attract online students from around the world. The way localizing platforms achieve that is by creating an enriching online learning experience for multicultural and multilingual systems. 
Localization and language are important for those educational resources online for learning English as a second language or similar types of courses for other languages. In such cases, the ideal audience will be people from around the world, and not just any singular location. Why? Because there are more students to be found from a global audience than there would be from a single domestic location. During what is deemed to be an “imminent recession” as a direct result of the COVID-19 global pandemic, reaching out to online students from around the world makes perfect sense for the economic practicality of the online educational institution. While English is certainly among the most prevalent languages online, it is certainly not the only language being used. 
Successfully implemented localization strategies will allow for the online educational websites to ensure that not only are the pertinent portions of their website available in as many languages as may be necessary, but also that the people will be spoken to in a language that they understand fully. 

It also means that consideration is given to the individual and unique cultural considerations at play in a global marketplace. Website translation and localization services allow for the website owner to not only translate the words of their website, but the ideas and meaning into a more localized and culturally relevant form. 

Local sources of pride can be highlighted indicating a better and more personal understanding of the local people and their particular needs. Local taboos can be avoided through the successful use of localization strategies in order to prevent causing offense to other cultures based on cultural or even historical sensitivities. There are however, some cases where a more immersive focus must be placed on individual languages and a more immersive environment established for online students.  

The Spanish in Mexico is very different from the Spanish that is spoken in Spain, both of which are very different from the Spanish spoken in the Caribbean nations. The American English is going to be very different from the English spoken in Britain, both being different from the English that is spoken in Scotland. A properly constituted, more immersive learning environment will give people the opportunity to learn the languages online as it pertains to their particular needs.  

Though even then, the localization strategies will still come in to play as there will need to be some way to attract a more localized and language-specific audience. The implications are such that even if someone is building a language-specific website, there should still be localization strategies included as part of the overall marketing for that website. In the case of learning languages online, this will also greatly assist the students in giving them a more accurate, more diverse and more immersive learning environment where practical application of their language learning skills is the norm and not just the exception.  

Localization and Immersive Learning Cultures Online 

Let’s expand the topic on learning foreign languages online here since it’s a unique subject that almost always revolves around on-site interaction Some students may be trying to figure out how to learn Portuguese online, some may want to learn German online and still others may want to learn English online. Language studies online are especially challenging as they often require a much more immersive learning environment and a little less focus on wider, more global localization. 
For most students learning a foreign language will require some practice, preferably among native speakers, and more importantly still, among the native speakers for the areas relevant to their studies. An immersive language learning experience online can be achieved in the form of forums or even chat rooms and video chat rooms with a large gathering of native speakers. 

Online Education Learning Strategies and the Real World 

Once the COVID-19 global pandemic is over, and the impending recession has passed, life for most people will go back to normal. One can never be truly certain about such scenarios though, as there are still so many things that could change for the better or for worse. There is no doubt however, that the COVID-19 pandemic has already changed the way a great many people live, work and even shop and play.  
Educational institutions around the world have been forced to move online quickly, and there will be a great deal of experimentation, successes and failures before an ideal solution for getting an education online will be determined. It may very soon come to pass though, that rather than being forced through a lengthy and complicated entry process for universities, online studies will be open to a much more global audience. Knowing the best and the worst of what is yet to come will help the colleges, universities, online educational institutions and even the students to be well-prepared and equipped to deal with the times, even as the times they are a changin’!  

To help your organisation adapt, Tomedes has set up a Crisis Communications Center. Whatever your language needs may be, we can respond swiftly and help you to operate as smoothly as possible. Contact us now for further details. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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