How the COVID-19 pandemic can change learning forever

By Steve O'Hara, Director, Exemplar Education
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a monumental impact on learning across the world, leaving 1.7bn children forced to adapt to a new home school routine. Wh...

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a monumental impact on learning across the world, leaving 1.7bn children forced to adapt to a new home school routine. 

While the lockdown has put the world on hold for billions and reimagined how we live, work and play, distance learning tools via online platforms like Zoom and a multitude of online learning resources have seen a record spike in demand as parents and educators worldwide grapple to limit learning disruption.

Since lockdown began education institutions have launched an unprecedented push on learning. Businesses traditionally in competition have thrown rivalries aside in collaboration to help young learners and parents navigate the choppy waters of home-schooling. 

Meanwhile, many long-established home learning websites, trusted household name companies and tech-start-ups have all offered free-access to their systems of tutorials, tests and classes in a collective bid to offset the effect of missed school time.    

Already a high-growth sector pre-pandemic, the online learning business has played a crucial role in levelling out the academic playing field. While private tuition was once the only recourse for learning support, parents now have options ranging from online learning tools to an expanding fleet of tuition centres. 

Public demand is now powering the rise of a multi-billion pound industry that’s tapping into the lifestyles and budgets of families looking to give their children the best possible support. A range of both free and cost-effective online learning services are giving access to learning tools like never before. 

New services which understand and adapt to how we live today have the potential to be a democratising force that gives millions more children access to quality learning tools. As the learning routines shifted from school to the living room, the exponential appetite for home-based resources has led many businesses to ramp up their service offerings at breakneck speed to keep pace with our new normal. 

From the world’s most highly valued edtech companies to the start-ups rolling out innovations in e-learning, providers of these home learning resources are all reporting astonishing growth and record demand. Our rapid transition to online learning in these unprecedented times means that families everywhere find themselves shoulder to shoulder against the same learning challenges. While private tuition and extra-curricular learning resources have traditionally been the preserve of the most privileged among us, more families than ever are accessing the fast-evolving online learning services. It’s an unprecedented situation which has put the age-old issue of educational inequality back up the agenda and given us cause to consider how all children can have positive learning experiences with a system that doesn’t disadvantage poorer families.        


Across the board business models are evolving, improving and investing in all aspects of their services to support remote learning en masse. Sites are broadening capacity, extending infrastructure to ensure steady performance and integrating a host of new features which support real-time learning. Some businesses have also responded to the preferred working habits of tech-savvy learners with solutions in video conferencing and applications which make shared group work a reality from home.     

With such incredible innovation in learning tools, it would be unthinkable to just return to our traditional offline learning model as our kids return to the classroom. During lockdown, families have taken time to try out and adopt new learning strategies that have helped to give kids a sense of routine, control and structure. Giving time to these new practices has been a lifeline in staving off feelings of fear and uncertainty provoked by the pandemic and has allowed families to feel like they are moving forwards.

Young learners haven’t just been whiling away the hours online till the schools reopen. Millions are making incredible progress and huge strides in their learning journey. Leading companies are announcing time after time both record engagement and academic attainment as kids acquire new lockdown learning skills. In spite of concerns that lockdown would disrupt learning, many pupils have been discovering the advantages of independent study. Pupils now have the freedom to move at their own pace and have the time to concentrate on topics they find challenging. We’re also seeing many young learners take an active lead in mapping out their own learning journey through a mix of e-learning resources, contact with teachers and chat communication tools with classmates. 

Despite inevitable obstacles to face such as some students’ lack of access to a computer or poor internet connection, it’s vital that the shift back to classroom-based learning doesn’t signal the death knell for online learning. With both advancements in technology and effective new e-learning habits, a new hybrid model of education is emerging before us. The lockdown has laid strong foundations for a new system which combines classroom learning with independent online learning. It is essential that we grasp the benefits brought from both old and new methods and grow to understand how to deliver strong educational experiences with a hand-in-hand approach.

This article was contributed by Steve O’Hara, Director of Education at Exemplar Education

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