Recently, NetApp’s Matt Lawson and Tom Ryan, Senior Fellow for the Center for Digital Education sat down to start brainstorming what the future of education will look like. With data points from a year of online learning at their fingertips how will education change, not just in the coming school year, but five or ten years from now? With signs pointing to hybrid learning environments becoming the standard for both K-12 and higher education we take a look at how schools, colleges, and universities can approach this new learning mode to support all students.
The ever-changing nature of education in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges that institutions have worked hard to overcome. As students, educators, and faculty adapted to the remote or hybrid learning model, IT providers, and professionals worked tirelessly behind the scenes to meet the immediate needs throughout education. But now, as more institutions begin to plan for the future, these collective forces have begun to brainstorm what the future of education would look like.
This was the theme of a recent webinar hosted by the Center for Digital Education which illuminated the current state of education and how it can evolve to better serve educators and students. The webinar started with a simple question: what does post-pandemic schooling look like?
Tom Ryan, Senior Fellow for the Center for Digital Education, began by describing the current, and ever changing expectations of educators, students, and parents. “We in education have been forced to offer more customizable and personalized education plans for students,” he added. “We are in a period where people are saying ‘Oh, I can’t wait for this to be over,’ but in 2019, we knew about the issues prevalent in education and now, we have an opportunity to do some amazing things.”
Adding to this, Matt Lawson, NetApp’s Director of Solutions Engineering, noted the incredibly quick speed with which traditional, on-prem education transitioned to hybrid or remote models. “I have to tip my hat at what we accomplished as a collective,” Lawson began. “This drastic shift overnight to facilitate teaching and learning while this disaster was going on around us shows what we can do when we put our minds to it.” And that transition will have long-lasting impacts. “One of the interesting outcomes of this are the new expectations about capabilities that we’ve kind of proven we have now. And students, parents, IT workers, and educators all have much higher expectations on the flexibility that we can offer.”
Referring back to Ryan’s comments, Lawson cautioned that though many are, naturally, excited for the return to on-prem education, there must be conversations about what can be learned from the last year and a half. “You can classify this into three approaches,” Lawson started. “The first are those who say, ‘Take me back to how it was before the pandemic,’ and unfortunately that’s just not going to happen.” In the age of new expectations from students and parents, this approach’s priorities will pass over the potential gains from the hybrid learning model.
“The second approach, which is [being used by] the vast majority of institutions, are trying to understand what the new normal is.” Here, institutions are trying to define what exactly they want to do when they think about the new normal. Another term would be reactionary, as they work to meet the current needs, but perhaps not the future needs. “You skate to where the puck is, not where the puck is going,” said Lawson.
But the third approach is the most compelling according to Lawson. “Institutions aligning with this approach are using this opportunity to completely transform.” Using this opportunity to charge ahead and answer some of the fundamental issues that pervaded education before the pandemic, this approach, Lawson argued, will take the best advantage of the biggest innovations from the digital transformation.
One of those innovations was, of course, the cloud. “The cloud has the ability to burst, and it processes unparalleled agility to move resources where they are needed most,” Lawson continued. As institutions were moving their processes from in-person to electronic or digital processes, cloud-powered institutions were able to make that transition seamlessly. “From a pure IoT perspective, that is one of the areas where education has accelerated some of the broader changes happening in the entire industry.”
There are many interesting developments in the industry that will likely impact education. “For instance, there are technologies out there that can audit using AI and machine learning,” Lawson stated. “This tech can look at data sets, either in your data center or on an end point or on a cloud, and automatically identify any assets that have compliance or privacy-related data.” This might take on additional importance in a decentralized, cloud-based hybrid learning model as some U.S. states and the federal government consider privacy legislation similar to the EU GDPR.
Looking forward, it is easy to see how the lessons learned over the course of the pandemic will likely ripple through the present and future of education. And though there may be some challenges with transitioning towards a more hybrid learning model, Lawson reiterated the support that exists for institutions looking to take that first step into the cloud. “Cloud providers can help you create a plan for the move to the cloud, the cybersecurity approaches that can protect you, and even the exit plan for when the next iteration of technology comes along.”
In the end, both Ryan and Lawson see a future where the return to on-prem education does not erase the gains made in 2020. They instead see a future where educational institutions can provide better education to more students than ever before with the help of cloud-powered hybrid learning.
To learn more about how NetApp and the Center for Digital Education view hybrid learning and the future of education, click here.
This article was originally published on GovDataDownload on July 13, 2021.