E-learning 101: creating digital education environments in Asia

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COVID-19 has compelled countries to accelerate digitalization—tantamount to a revolution in education. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says the pandemic has forced 1.2 billion children out of school classrooms and is dramatically changing education. E-learning, or education conducted through digital platforms, is the order of the day.

International students looking to study in Asia Pacific countries offering high-quality education, affordability, and diverse culture often turn to global rankings to make their choices. Examples of e-learning models that exemplify these qualities and consistently achieve prime positions in OECD’s global rankings include Singapore and Japan.

Envisioned as a ‘global schoolhouse’, Singapore is aligning itself to one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for Education (UNSDG), which recommends that learners acquire the knowledge and skills aligned to sustainable development by 2030.

Interestingly, the international charity Head Foundation’s EdTech research paper identifies the most useful digital tools that will drive collaboration, problem solving, immersive media, and game simulations. 

With many studies reporting that e-learning takes less time and enhances information retention, educators are facing complex technologies and approaches to deliver the world-class learning environments.

Addressing the talent conundrum

Preparing children and reskilling the existing workforce for a 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) world is a critical challenge that could make or fracture economies.

Every country’s future is linked to solving this hurdle to economic growth and social wellbeing. A WEF study warns that the percentage of core skills will change by 40% by 2025 and that 50% of all employees will need reskilling. Another WEF report points out that 65% of children today will find themselves in new job types that have yet to exist.

In addition to instilling a culture of lifelong learning, the ideal education model needs to be robust, reliable, and innovative for a hybrid new normal.

Let’s now turn to some key steps in building world-class e-learning environments.

Pioneering fit-for-future learning environments

Remote learning is driving irreversible trends in our global environment. The following list of trends, compiled by the e-student organisation, point to what a future-ready learning environment should be capable of driving:

  • Mobile learning
  • Microlearning
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
  • Increased accessibility for all online students
  • User-generated content
  • Gamification and game-based learning
  • Personalised learning
  • Virtual conferences
  • Collaborative e-learning
  • Social learning.

As 5G makes possible technologies such as virtualization and cloud, we need to move ahead by building and maintaining a network that is smarter, more agile, and more responsive to today’s dynamic environment. Leading educators rightly point to adaptability as a key requirement. 

For example, university campuses can operate off an IT data centre platform with a fixed wireline network to the internet while different buildings have fibre connections and wireless access points that can be moved to 5G to save costs instead of having to build infrastructure. 

In South Korea, mobile operator LG Uplus, which is involved in a highly competitive 5G race, is targeting universities to build private networks for wireless infrastructure elements.

Networks that can adapt comprise key elements: programmable infrastructure, analytics and intelligence, software control and automation, as well as services; all are key in next-generation solutions.

Impact at scale makes certain that students benefit from a quality education, and networks that can adapt equate to the optimal use of existing frameworks and widening access to new technologies and ways of working.

Educators can use technology as a powerful tool to maintain the physical world quality of social contact, in addition to deeper interactivity and additional learning channels through digital adoption. 

The way forward

The marriage of technology with the needs of people helps shape the ideal model for an establishment. E-learning systems provide companies with the flexibility to enhance motivation, boost user engagement, and raise productivity.

A robust and flexible network infrastructure allows Asia to be always-on and globally connected. Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia already have more than 80% internet penetration, and 5G has pushed the fundamental challenge of connectivity atop other countries’ digital agendas. 

Another strategic answer lies in high-capacity networks and metro facilities that make possible the deployment of AR and other capabilities. An example of this is remote training. Using virtual reality headsets, people can be shown how to build solutions and perform various tasks. 

Moving forward, the Global Partnership for Education rightly positions education as both a human right and a change agent for countries intent on building sustainable growth and enduring societal transformation. In accord with this, educational organisations in Asia that adopt the right digital strategies will help propel their students and countries more seamlessly and robustly into the digital arena. 

There is no turning back in the post-pandemic world. Covid-19 has brought about a new hybrid normal for the world, and this will continue to pivot on a digital foundation of innovating more efficient and enriching ways of working, living, and learning.

Rick Seeto, VP and General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan Sales at Ciena Written by Rick Seeto, Vice President and General Manager of Asia-Pacific, Ciena

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