COVID has brought many challenges beyond healthcare. Our society has to develop strategies and tools to face them at all levels. One of the most affected sectors is education as not only must content be conveyed effectively, but also the safety of teachers and students has to be ensured. From schools to businesses, including professional trainings and universities, everybody is looking for the tools to achieve their educational goals without damaging the quality of education.
Moving towards digitalisation, not distance learning
The education sector has found a clear answer to the current situation: progress towards digitalisation. It is important to clarify that digitalisation and the use of ICT do not imply distance learning. Digitalisation involves applying new technologies to the teaching process, something that was already happening before the pandemic outbreak. The use of new technologies such as virtual classrooms, internet in the classroom, virtual visits and gamification – increasing the student’s engagement by using game elements and principles – does not mean that the teacher and the student have to be in different rooms.
Up until recently, the presence of digitalisation in the classroom was relatively modest since it was seen as means to make teaching more efficient. However, the current situation has rapidly accelerated this process, not without considerable effort. It was implemented and used out of necessity during lockdown last academic year, and right now it looks like the only viable solution to the current constraints.
Using ICT for teaching not only makes teachers’ jobs easier, but it also helps with the students’ skills development. Interacting with digital systems facilitates learning how to use them and move at ease in an increasingly technological world. The current crisis does not present a challenge but an opportunity. The disruption of the traditional teaching method presents the opportunity to finally embrace and make the most of ICT.
The technologies that can be adapted are not restricted to the things we already know and use. Most of us are used to virtual classrooms and video conferences, but there are many other elements. There are some tools that can be created: quizzes for students to answer and see each other’s results as if it were a competition, interactive presentations or even virtual visits. The tools and their applications are limitless.
Games in the classroom
There is no need to restrict ourselves to the tools developed for learning, an educational use can be found for almost any equipment or digital tool. Videogames have already been used to carry out projects. For instance, the videogame «Minecraft», where anything can be built using different materials, can be used to prepare lessons with highly interactive and gamification components.
Educating in a playful environment makes the participants be more involved and more motivated when performing tasks. Moreover, active participation in the learning process helps to retain knowledge more easily.
Virtual reality and education
As Edgar Dale already established in 1969, the best way of learning is by doing. The more active and multimodal – using several senses – education is, the more information will be retained. This describes perfectly virtual reality and its application to training.
Virtual reality is not only used to practice skills by simulating a real situation, but it can also be used to teach more theoretical knowledge in a participatory way. It is not necessary to read a text in a book if you can receive the contents “in front of” the object being described. From studying physics “in space” to safety measures in the working area, in virtual reality there are no constraints or physical risks.
Practical training with virtual reality
Practical training or workshops using virtual reality seem to be a solution to several of the issues presented by the current situation. The main benefits of this type of technology are that it allows for easily maintaining a good level of hygiene of the equipment, keeping a safe distance and performing activities in a safe manner, all while avoiding unnecessary journeys.
The only gear needed is a computer and virtual reality equipment. Being able to practice skills without any additional physical materials or journeys means that a mechanic and a medical assistant can be practicing in the same space with the same tools.
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