COVID-19 had a disruptive effect on all of our lives. From the impact of isolation and separation from loved ones to abrupt shifts in our personal and professional responsibilities, the pandemic has had an impact on all facets of our experience.
One industry that has felt the pressure of the pandemic more acutely than others has been the education sector. Let’s explore the impacts of COVID affecting schools in Australia, and some predictions on how it will impact the Australian education sector in 2023.
Disruptions to Traditional Learning Experiences
Restrictions imposed by health authorities had a near-immediate impact on the movements of students and staff in Australia. While restrictions were highly variable, depending on which state you lived in, these restrictions had a near-immediate impact on the classroom.
A traditional learning experience for students generally involved a thirty-hour week in a classroom, for a typical high schooler. With restrictions forcing students out of the classroom and into the home, classrooms were forced onto online platforms.
This, while leading to a large number of comedic skits online, had a negative impact on the capacity of learners to understand the content. For teachers that lacked experience in a digital environment, time was lost trying to understand basic practices that online institutions had in place for many years.
Adapting to Flexible Learning Practices
Lockdown was initially expected to run for a matter of weeks. In some places, political leaders provoked the notion that the pandemic would last a matter of weeks. However, this was not to be the case, as weeks dragged into months, and finally, years.
2023 marks the fourth year of the pandemic’s impacts on the education sector. Depending on where you live, this impact can be highly variable – from near-total lockdown in China, to laissez-faire restrictions in nations such as Sweden, all students felt the impact of classroom disruption.
This necessitated a switch to online learning, with many students relying on digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams to get through a day in the classroom. While this was something that online universities quickly adapted to, conventional classroom study struggled.
Social? Not Anymore
Social distancing restrictions had an impact not only on physical learning. Classrooms also provide an opportunity for students to engage with their peers and participate in vital networking and character-building opportunities.
Social media formed a key element in keeping students connected across the physical divide, and platforms such as BeReal and TikTok have enabled students to innovate their own learning experiences across a wide platform of ideas. In the future, it’s expected that the use of social-generated content will foster connections between students of all levels, and assist in remediating some of the divides present in today’s isolated world.
The Impact of Disruption
A major element of the education sector in Australia has been the reduction of international students in Australia. The impact of visa delays, airline disruptions, and varied travel conditions has had a dramatic impact on the capacity for students to travel abroad to study.
While some international students are returning, this drop in students has allowed universities to pivot towards further online education provision. Current online students are major beneficiaries of this, experiencing improved online services.
This can be incredibly useful and allows students to mitigate the impact of disruption. As a result, students can minimise the impact of physical disruption, and get the most out of a potentially negative experience.
The Future of Education in 2023
Overall, the effects of COVID give us some indication as to what education may look like in the years ahead. Broadly speaking, analysts expect that there will be a greater shift to digital coursework, as students adapt to the risk of COVID in the classroom.
Additionally, it’s expected that a lower number of students will return to in-class study. This may put pressure on academic institutions, and new policies and frameworks formed to address the impact of hybrid learning options.
Looking even further forward, it’ll be fascinating to see the long-term impacts of COVID-19 in the classroom. Ongoing research such as that conducted by Cambridge University may produce additional insights into the future place of pedagogy in the classroom, and how it can be adapted to improve learning outcomes going forward.