There’s no doubt that the world looks far different today than it did just a year ago. For so many of us, the outbreak of COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way we live our daily lives. Now, more than ever, we’re using the internet not just for communication or for entertainment. We’re relying on it to help us survive and grow, from working at home to learning at home.
But what does the transition to the digital world mean for our children who are having to adapt to remote learning? How might this affect not only their education today, but also their hopes and dreams for the future? Are we dooming this generation to a lifetime of academic struggle because of the “learning loss” they’re ostensibly facing now? And, if so what does that mean for their futures? For their career prospects?
Challenges and Opportunities
For millions of students, parents, and educators, the abrupt transition to remote learning has been far from ideal. Families have struggled with ensuring their children have access to the technology they need for online learning. Students have wrestled with the transition to a largely unfamiliar learning format. These difficulties have been well documented.
What is less widely publicized, though, are the profound short- and long-term benefits of online learning when students have access to the resources they need when educators are trained specifically in digital pedagogies, and when schools provide online learning platforms designed to promote student success. Studies show that when students do remote learning in this way, not only do they master content more quickly, they retain more.
But, as this article will show, the benefits most definitely do not end there. Because when students learn to succeed in the online learning environment, they’re developing skills that will benefit them in their future education. Even more than that, though, they’re honing capabilities that will enable them to shine in the jobs of the future.
No question succeeding in the online learning environment requires students to master skills that they may not need — or at least not with such depth — in the physical classroom. When students are learning remotely, they’re going to be tasked with mastering a diverse array of platforms and applications.
They’ll need to know their way around the internet. They’ll need to be proficient with video conferencing technologies. At the very least, they’ll need to know how to do word processing and how to work with applications such as Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint.
They’re also going to be learning important lessons in digital literacy. They’ll cultivate their proficiency with independent research, including their ability to vet and use sources.
And these are all skills that aren’t just desirable but essential in a prospective employee.
But these aren’t the only opportunities that online learning provides, because now students can call up free and low-cost online courses to help them learn practically any skill they might want or need, from learning how to code to mastering a new language.
The more of these tangible, transferable skills that can be added to the resume, the better able these future professionals will be to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market. After all, the resume is the foot in the door, the thing that gets the recruiters’ attention. And there’s no better way to do that than by having an impressive roster of hard skills on page 1!
Online learning isn’t just helping to prepare students for the future of work by enabling them to ensure their hard skills are on point. In fact, perhaps the greatest benefit of online learning is its capacity to help students cultivate essential soft skills, those aptitudes that are hard to define and quantify–and even harder to acquire.
Succeeding in the remote learning environment, for example, requires a combination of independence and collaboration. As employers increasingly shift to telework and a reliance on geographically distributed teams, they’re looking for employees who can carry out their duties autonomously, while also coming together for creative and cooperative collaboration when needed.
Learning remotely, like working remotely, also requires deep critical and analytical thinking skills, as well as the ability to manage conflicts and resolve problems effectively. This is a particularly important, but challenging, skill because succeeding in online environments requires superlative communication skills, the ability both to express oneself clearly, concisely, and respectfully and also to understand and appropriately respond to what others are attempting to convey. This is why, even in hybrid classroom environments, educators are finding interactive discussion forums to be particularly useful in honing students’ communication skills.
For millions of students today, online learning isn’t a matter of choice, but a necessity. As difficult as the transition may be for many students, families, and educators, however, remote education can also provide incredible benefits that traditional classrooms cannot. The online environment, above all, helps students develop fundamental hard and soft skills that they’ll need to be rock stars in their future careers.