As lecture halls go empty, an experiment into digital learning at scale is ramping up. While digital learning has been improving for some time, Covid-19 may not only tip us further into a more digitally connected reality, but also help us better appreciate its benefits. This is important because historically, digital learning has been viewed as inferior to traditional learning.
We often think about digital technologies as ways to reach people without access to traditional services-online learning for children who don’t have schools nearby or telemedicine for patients with no access to doctors.
The solution? Digital learning for local health workers.
The method forms a digital loop of learning, practice, assessment, and adjustment.
That is, digital learning in this context was equivalent to high quality in-person learning.
If that is possible today, with simple tools, will they surpass traditional medical centers and schools in the future? Can digital learning more generally follow suit and have the same success? Perhaps.
Other benefits of digital learning include the near-instantaneous download of course materials-rather than printing and shipping books-and being able to more easily report grades and other results, a requirement for many schools and social services organizations.
Of course, as other digitized industries show, digital learning can grow and scale further at much lower costs.
To that last point, 360ed, a digital learning startup founded in 2016 by Hla Hla Win, now serves millions of children in Myanmar with augmented reality lesson plans.
Looking further ahead, probably the most important benefit of online learning will be its potential to integrate with other digital systems in the workplace.
While in the long term the world will likely end up combining the best aspects of traditional and digital learning, it’s important in the near term to be more aware of the assumptions we make about digital technologies.