Coronavirus (COVID 19) is changing the face of education today.
Whiles millions around the world have been affected; many more are looking into the opportunities this could bring even after the pandemic is over.
COVID 19 Today I will like to talk to you about a real life story of a friend.
An owner of a prestigious education center in Singapore.
For some reason the real name will not be used in here.
Larry (names have been changed), was among those affected by the Government’s announcement on March 24 that centre-based tuition will be suspended from March 27 till April 30 as part of measures to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.
While the move should not have been a complete shock, it was still unsettling.
Hours before that, Larry’s business partner had met with Larry to discuss how to move lessons online.
Larry said ‘’we have been making changes to the way we operate since Chinese New Year when the Covid-19 situation appeared to be escalating.
These include daily disinfections of the premises, full refunds to those on Leave of Absences, constant updates to parents on what we are doing, taking temperatures of students and making sure they have not come into contact with those infected’’.
While the Government’s announcement meant a mad scramble for tuition operators, Larry believe this was an opportunity.
In his own words he said: ‘’First, this may perhaps be the push we need to move towards online tuition or e-tuition’’.
‘’Personally, I love physical classes because I like the interaction with students and the relationship built but I have to reluctantly admit online classes are the way to the future’’.
Just like how brick-and-mortar malls are giving way to online shops and traditional taxis are losing market share to uber, the tuition industry also needs to prepare itself for the future before it gets caught out by technological disruption.
To people like Larry, the whole world is undergoing a great revolution, and the earlier we wake up to this revolution the better it is for us all.
Wake up Coronavirus is forcing us to break out of our comfort zone.
Most of us have started experimenting with Zoom, Google classrooms and the likes.
Of course most students who still prefer face-to-face lessons will have to adjust but at the same time, this brings a new form of opportunities.
Recently universities like Harvard are offering online courses.
Other universities and immerging tutoring companies are also moving online.
Opportunities Post COVID, tuition operators who embrace online classes successfully will not be limited by space, rental costs and could open themselves to new markets far beyond their countries.
For online classes, so much time could be saved for both the student and the teacher.
There is no time to rush from place to place and fewer reasons to miss a class.
For agencies like us, it also means we could get talent from anywhere, even from overseas.
As it stands, one big challenge we face is recruiting good teachers.
It typically takes a while to get committed persons.
For older students who just need tips from a tutor, an online system is ideal.
Self-motivated, you listen for advice and can skip the parts you do not need if it is a recorded version.
With flipped learning where students already have the class materials before lessons, e-tuition is also practical, as any face time would be used mainly to clarify doubts.
In the long haul, going fully online will cost-less for tuition centres.
Rental, like all other businesses, take up the bulk of overhead costs.
In contrast, a Zoom account ranges from being free to just US$14.
99 a month to host 100 people.
There will be significantly fewer bills — such as electricity, printing and cleaning — to pay.
In fact, with less commuting required and paper used, e-tuition is more environmentally friendly.
The Challenges That said, as with all uses of technology, there are downsides to e-tuition.
First, the online experience may not match the face-to-face experience.
Through my years of teaching, I have built rapport with many students, and kept in touch with some even after graduation.
The kind of connection would be more difficult to establish in an online setting.
It is harder for me to give personal attention to students with problems too.
Face-to-face, we can see physical cues to notice one’s discomfort, or a student’s look of confusion before we seek to clarify their doubts.
Online, it is harder for us to do so.
More importantly, I worry about the rich-poor gap growing.
As the online learning experience becomes more ubiquitous, especially if government schools were to close, what would happen to the poor who cannot afford a laptop or proper internet access at home? Still, online classes are a must and the disadvantages of the learning in these environment must be seen as challenges we have to overcome.
Overcoming Challenges Some parents have their own misgivings.
Some say that the mindset may need some time to change.
That notwithstanding, tutors can set aside some electronic face time, similar to a university professor’s office-hours allotment, to help students who need more attention.
We can still be very interactive online, treating each class like a “performance”, which a class really should be.
Games can still be played in an online setting.
We just need more imagination and creativity.
Beyond the nuts and bolts of holding class’s online, tuition and education centres need to deal with this situation with care and compassion.
Conclusion An education business is a business like no other.
Besides the need to be profitable, it needs to be one that is ethical, especially in a crisis like this.
Provide options for refunds if parents or students are uncomfortable with e-tuition.
Offer trials to be fair to them.
Provide rebates if you can afford to, because we need to be in solidarity in this time of need.
The goodwill will go a long way.
Excellent Home Classes has started online tuition using Zoom and we invite all parents to register and access our free 30 minute introductory class to see how it works.
Click here to register.
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