How the COVID-19 pandemic can change learning forever
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
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.