Creating a New Future of Learning

    Steady transition towards online learning has generated some impressive responses among education partners following their step-up to rapidly deliver access to remote learning experiences.

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    Angela Nganga, Education Industry Lead – Middle East & Africa Emerging Markets, Microsoft

    Like every segment of society, continuous education is rapidly undergoing profound and accelerated changes owing to Covid-19 pandemic.

    Having revealed fault lines in education systems, the pandemic has in an equal measure fast-tracked the pace for countering the reaction of crisis that prompted governments to order the closure of learning institutions.

    So far, the steady transition towards online learning has generated some impressive responses among education partners following their step-up to rapidly deliver access to remote learning experiences.

    In an interview with CIO East Africa, Ms Angela Nganga, Education Industry Lead – Middle East & Africa Emerging Markets at Microsoft, said the deliberate move to collaborate by  prototyping new models of learning, embracing technologies of cooperation, and cultivating open approaches to leadership is amplifying the role of policy makers, educators and learners.

    It emerges that what learners need are opportunities to find pathways of action that can deepen learning for students and teachers to engage in new ways of learning that result in better outcomes.

    Angela Nganga, Education Industry Lead – Middle East & Africa Emerging Markets, Microsoft

    Following the sudden shift from formal teacher-centric classrooms in many parts of the globe, questions are already rife as to whether the steady adoption of online learning will persist post-pandemic, and how the shift shall impact the worldwide education market.

    Concertered effort of students, families, educators and solution providers to seize the opportunity of experiential learning is according to Nganga sparking a new interest and commitment to equity as students and teachers from diverse communities are drawn to global competencies.

    Deliberate Leap

    Considering that teachers are on the frontline of enabling the sudden shift to remote learning, Microsoft took a deliberate leap to engage and train hundreds of them online prior and during this COVID-19 period as a way of observing social distancing a move that has pushed the educators to quickly re-align and engage in-person lessons into online learning for their students. This incredible change has shed light on the inspiring ingenuity, passion, and commitment of those who support our communities.

    Microsoft Teams, a digital hub for communication and collaboration has made it easier and more efficient than ever for leaners and human recourse personnel to stay up to date on professional developments without having to devote large amounts of personal time to study. Organizations can now deliver a variety of learning activities into one’s regular workflow with the right resources.

    However, Nganga notes that while eLearning tools are highly effective in a lot of ways, they are emerging as not the only ways to the most effective learning hence the option of hybrid learning – a way of combining traditional classroom experiences, experiential learning objectives, and digital course delivery that emphasizes using the best option for each learning objective.

    Find Pathways

    The blended learning models, asserted Nganga has generated a torrent of ideas as to how education could be transformed. Microsoft has found a groundswell of interest in the question, of how best to add value to the new opportunities arising from the disruption.

    It emerges that what learners need are opportunities to find pathways of action that can deepen learning for students and teachers to engage in new ways of learning that result in better outcomes.

    Noting that creating the future of learning reveals the need for fundamental relationships as people and the government think about reopening schools, Nganga says that since teachers plays a critical role in learning, most schools are likely to adopt a hybrid type of learning.

    Collaboration Tools

    During this shift, technology has played a critical role in enabling students to stay connected, engaged, and motivated. Besides teaching, the teachers are continuing to learn how to effectively integrate with the students on video and teaching using game-based learning, and using powerful collaboration tools into their virtual lessons.

    To this effect, Nganga says the teacher remains an extremely important asset in the education chain.  However, there is still so much to be done in terms of reviewing and revising the curriculum and not necessarily to change the competency based curriculum in place but perhaps revisiting it to develop a more hybrid in nature.

    Students according to Nganga are experiencing a new type of learning, which will have an important, lasting impact. Institutional leaders insist that going online is more than remote instruction but implementing solutions that would guarantee experiential learning and departments running smoothly and evolve with the changing needs of students and staff.

    Even with all the incredible fast work, administrators and leaders acknowledge they are navigating unchartered territory, and there is more to be done to ensure all students can effectively participate.

    As we look to the next school year and beyond, system leaders, educators, faculty, students, and families will apply what they’ve learned throughout the process, and work together to plan and shape the future of education.

    As much as we are moving to a digital platform we have to realize that not all teachers are trained to teach with technology, there is a big difference when it comes to teaching with technology.

    Learning Experience

    Nganga noted that her team was training 150 teachers in Kenya on how to create content and teach online. “Microsoft has invested heavily on education since Microsoft started the journey of digitization in the country 20 years ago. Over the time Microsoft has trained over 20,000 teachers.” However, if training is not tied to the entire learning experience, of imparting the tools that we are skilling the teacher gaps are still created between the learners and trained teachers.

    Although some teachers have been trained, it is not all of them who have had the opportunities to actually practice. As opposed to the public schools who rarely even get into the computer lab, the journey has been a bit easier for private school students to get used to the new setup.

    Since Microsoft is not in a position to train every teacher, it has partnered with Teachers Service Commission to champion the training of teachers in every school. It is encouraging that such arrangement has continued to give teachers the first-hand experience.

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