14 Oct 2020 20:21 IST

What makes up a good digital classroom

Source: Unsplash

The data generated real-time in virtual classes can be used by teachers to derive actionable insights

With brick-and-mortar classrooms giving way to virtual classes, physical lectures transitioning into video conferencing, and tablets, laptops and smart phones replacing the trusty school bag, the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the education sector across the world. Over a billion children in 132 countries, nearly 60 per cent of the global student population have been affected by temporary school closures. In India alone, it is estimated that around 320 million children have been affected by the nation-wide shutdown of schools.

From informative videos to presentations over virtual collaboration platforms, there is a wealth of data being generated in the virtual classroom, and this will only grow with time. With the widespread usage of digital learning tools and monitoring technology, more and more educators are realising that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning. At the core of this ongoing change, however, is a vast volume of untapped data that can help in unravelling insights to make learning effective, equitable, and accessible.

Powered by the right data infrastructure — in terms of collating, storing, and analysing data — educational institutions can tailor teaching approaches to personalise learning for students that suits their personality, state of mind, and environment. It can enable instructors to analyse the cumulative performance and other factors to suggest areas for improvement and ensure better learning outcomes.

In order to understand this better, let us unpack the elements of the tool kit that powers the new-age digitised classroom:

Virtual classrooms

The shift from traditional to virtual classes has called for reassessing and reinventing the whole classroom learning experience. With virtual classes, for instance, educators are now creating large repositories of questions and answers on different topics for review. This has spurred the use of data analytics in teaching and learning, whereby it is possible for teachers to track, monitor and analyse student engagement in various discussion forums. This is enabling teachers to create personalised learning plans based on different learning styles.

Improving learning efficacy

Missing a lecture in a traditional classroom was akin to losing learning time. However, in times of online learning, this is not a worry any more. It is possible for educational institutions to stream pre-recorded video lectures, which can then be hosted on a server to provide uninterrupted access to learning content. In this way, storage technology can transcend limitations imposed by accessibility and connectivity issues and help make learning device-agnostic. It also liberates students to regulate their screen time.

Rich learning experiences

Educational content doesn’t follow a linear path in the digitised classroom — it is no longer limited to course books and reference books alone. High-quality online content comprises a mix of e-books and PDFs, audio or video material, and live streaming content. This 360-degree approach to education offers rewarding learning outcomes in the virtual environment.

However, the challenge often lies in the realm of finding an appropriate storage solution to save rich-media content, which is often posted to school or parent-managed shared drives and accessed via smartphones. Micro storage devices like SanDisk Dual Drives for mobile can be used to move content between devices — such as from a smartphone to a bigger screen such as tablet, PC or even smart TVs. With micro SD cards from SanDisk that provide upto 1TB of storage, it’s very easy and effective to expand the capacity of smartphones, tablets and even Chrome books to store content.

Empowering teachers

The use of advanced data analytics in collating real-time data from multiple sources is helping educational institutions in identifying areas where students struggle the most. In doing so, instructors are leveraging comprehensive data sets for predicting unplanned absences, performance in tests, and so on. For instance, a dashboard fed with auto-generated data on attendance, grades, test scores is helping teachers tailor their classes for a given batch of students and provide resources for future development. With so much data being generated across learning management systems and applications, schools must invest in the right data infrastructure to draw actionable insights.

Digital proficiency

The role of the educator is undergoing a change with these transitions in the learning landscape. There is a need for educational institutions to invest not just in ramping up the physical and technological infrastructure, but also capacity building mechanisms for teachers to craft immersive online learning experiences. Improved digital competence will enable them to use reliable content storage and management mechanisms in congruence with digital tools to address learning issues in the virtual classroom as well as achieve operational efficiency.

Are we ready yet?

As classrooms become digitised, there is a growing consensus among educators that learning as a purpose-driven activity is highly complex and personal. In a post-pandemic world, a blended approach to learning — in the form of smart classrooms and virtual classes — will be the norm. Hence, in creating the ideal virtual school experience, it is vital for educational institutions to not just strengthen the technology backbone, but also re-skill and upskill educators and design engaging content.

However, with digital learning, there will also be greater volumes of data being generated — if captured, stored, and managed correctly, these can transform the education sector by providing cutting-edge insights.

(The author is Sales Director - India, Western Digital, a data storage company.)