With the new year well in place, curfews, isolation periods, schools, and offices closed, the thoughts on what the future will bring for our field of Educational Technology need to be reflected upon in a context of a pandemic. There is a clearer physical and mental health need to review our gear for our new offices at home. Our job definitions are currently morphing at the same time as our working conditions, and it seems as though we won’t have to wait as long to see the new generation of jobs that were never to be conceived before. But with changes to the K-12 Educational System, we are facing the need to redefine the terms and conditions under which our children will succeed in landing those new jobs. As for our Higher Education environments, they are already transforming into places where online learning is no longer just a Nice-To-Have, but a Must!
In this context, here are 5 ways I see our lives evolving during a current pandemic.
Our Reality Behind a Computer Screen
More accessible and ergonomic considerations for our technological gear, which is fulfilling more and more of our everyday needs.
I think (and hope) there will be more holistic solutions to life in front of a computer. Ergonomic office spaces, chairs, keyboards, mouses and virtual gear will be thought out to accommodate our new reality of working from home. Our backs and knees are a sore testament to the urgent need we all have for that, and, in some cases, the changes of the Health Insurance coverages are tangible proof of the era we live in. While our muscles are paying the price in front of our computers, the sanity of our brains is somewhat saved by the little contact we still have with each other thanks to those same computers. We connect across homes and time zones via VR headsets to save our otherwise isolated New Year parties. In my case, our office Christmas party was saved by this same concept because now organizing virtual scavenger hunts is a job and a pretty important one too! More of these new business concepts will rise and with it jobs that will be even harder to explain to our grandparents. But these are realities and conditions that save us from this era of isolation only if we have desk jobs, access to an internet connection with the right bandwidth capacity and the technology itself. With this new era, we will be obliged to accelerate making all of this accessible to a higher number of people by government-funded programs, thus making access to technological solutions a topic to be discussed by our politicians; it’s a must, it’s a hope!
Our K-12 Educational System Behind a Computer Screen
Better support, resources, tools and training for the education sector and every individual required to contribute to a child’s education in their own home, on their own time.
All these recent societal changes, including online learning for teachers and students in the K-12 system—where there was almost none or very little before, the cancellation of certain educational standards and goals for our children to be able to cope with the larger needs of their disrupted lives, and conditions which makes time for learning almost non-existent, will lead to reinventing the curriculum and to reinventing our demands and requests from our educational systems around the globe. Schools and teachers are improvising to try to cope with the greater disparity created by the pandemic between the fortunate and the less fortunate, between the abled and the disabled, between the parent that can find the time to assist with homework and the one that is in front of an impossible task no matter how hard they try. Teachers, more than ever, will require and demand better support, resources, tools, and training to cope with the new technological needs of their reinvented jobs. And parents who are home-schooling their children in those difficult times due to sanitation and medical reasons of all kinds will require the same support system. It will be inevitable for us to revisit the importance and place we give to education in our society and adapt our educational milestones and associated legislation; it’s a must, it’s a hope!
Higher Education and Training Behind a Computer Screen
A reinvention of Higher Education to legitimize our non-traditional online counterparts and catch up to them via collaboration and not competition amongst our educational institutions.
With the rise of elearning in the Higher Education sphere to the status of a Must and no longer just a Nice-to-have, we will encourage and recognize more and more self-thought career paths or skills. In the meantime, many other educational services were made available online, outside of the academic context, that universities will either have to catch up to or recognize those other online educational tools as valid. And one of the solutions to catch up would be to look at Higher Education differently, allowing for better exchanges and credit transfers amongst institutions via better-supported portals uniting all online course offerings in a field. Solutions to economically support such initiatives, hopefully, will rise. These changes would also make programs less exclusive, allowing for better cross-curricular and cross-pollination. I remember that my best learning and my best experiences in school were when my Literature class professors allowed me to treat Ibsen’s A Doll’s House via my Choreography practice in my Art class while getting support from my History professor to discuss the evolution of feminism via that same play, and all this for extracurricular, inter-disciplinary credits. Soon these Mod Podge learning collages between disciplines will no longer be the exceptional final, graduation, extracurricular project that only a few will exhibit. Soon these collaborations and tailored educational paths will be a given in an era where online learning will allow better, easier, more intuitive collaborations between students, professors, and universities. As Robert Beauchemin, our CEO, calls it, an ‘à-la-carte learning, DIY diploma’ will differentiate every one of us for the unique individuals that we all are; it’s a must, it’s a hope!
Our Lifestyle Behind a Computer Screen
A diversification of our family and individual dynamics for our work-life balance and schedules, reducing our traffic, carbon footprint and modifying our human geography.
We will also continue to reconsider our lifestyles seriously. We have given more importance to physical and mental health lately, mainly by staying less on the road—for those who are now working from home more often than not. Virtual services and helplines were put in place to access more easily during a crisis. We noticed, sometimes too late, the effect of isolation and lack of social services on the human coping mechanism, and the news were able to tell us all about those terrible aftermath stories. Nevertheless, every system tried coping to the best of its abilities with these new COVID-19 circumstances, and employers are no exception. Some have invested in their employees because their hearts and values were in the same place as their means to do so, while others had it more difficult, no matter what their intentions were. But these circumstances led to one thing all employers had in common: difficulties in maintaining the regular 9-5 schedule. In the future, we would see a more significant shift towards accommodating a variety of working hours, depending on the nature of the job. With these changes in rhythm, many of us would continue to reinvent our family and individual dynamics, creating a greater and greater variety out of them. We are just beginning to realize the potential of doing certain jobs from home, thus reducing traffic, the need for office spaces, and geographical central working points. These changes can have a drastic positive impact on the environment and overall global warming. But on a smaller scale with just as much potential for a remarkable metamorphosis, these lifestyle changes will strongly depend on the finetuning of our already-existing office administration technologies, which will accommodate the accounting of working hours at home, online group work, teams with a variety of time zones, virtual document storing and access and also security—which we have seen lately has been breached in all possible ways with COVID-19 increasing virtual communications. We will have our reinvented tech gear support our new, redefined lifestyles for the better; it’s a must, it’s a hope!
Our Jobs Behind a… Robot!
A greater spread of robotics to perform the repetitive and very complex combinations of our human jobs, to better control sanitation levels and liberate minds for bigger, greater aspects of the work at hand via a redistribution of our human brainpower.
This leads me to my biggest hope for the future: a hope that robotics will help in these efforts for greater sanitation while maintaining the efforts to liberate workers that feel like robots, a hope that our economy will invest in building the potential of our minds to serve a higher purpose because we all deserve to wake up enthusiastic about our contribution to society. What I predict for the future of eLearning is that it takes a solid stance in providing what it has always provided for the educational sector: access, access to information, access to support for learning, access to educational services; I hope it continues to fight to provide the same advantages for employees of industries that are turning towards robotics. These employees deserve that we invest in them, their tenure, and often the lives and dedication that they have given to a workplace so that we strongly support the irrefutable fact that they are worth more than the robots that we will continue to put in place to do the repetitive part of their essential jobs. I hope that eLearning will be there to provide them hope to keep their work, but at greater heights, with greater status and advancement possibilities and bigger objectives. So that we all feel that the robots are there to replace us in the repetition and the complexities of numerous combinations not humanly possible, but not in the creativity of our beautiful brains. So that eTraining be the solace of their worried souls when an announcement is made for the new fully-robotic wing of their big corporation. So that these employees be liberated from the shackles of their repetitive jobs to perform the unique tasks only they can perform; it’s a must for the survival of the numbers of our current also changing economic system, but it’s also a hope that we stay human and grounded in our fair and just ethos.