You might be reading this article with your casuals on and working from home. We are currently staying indoors unless there are very specific reasons to go out like purchasing essentials or taking care of health needs. There are no dress codes, we interact over video conferencing tools, stay connected with friends and family on social media, learn online, shop online, and spend only a fraction of the day outside.
Is this abnormal? COVID-19 has led us to stay home on official orders, but even before this, many us used to work from home, used social media to connect, learn online, and shop online. So we should not exactly say that we are practicing social distancing prior to COVID-19, technologies and social media have been distancing us for years now.
We are tempted to know when things will return to normal, but the fact is they will not, at least the exact same ‘old normal’. Though we can achieve a ‘new normal’, despite all the small fundamental differences we may have.
What does “normal” really mean, anyway?
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of normal says: “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern”. And that’s is it is going to be. We’ll confirm a new type, standard, or pattern, and thus ‘the new normal’. We’ll go back to our workplaces, be slightly more social than we are now, but our societies and the world will change for the better tomorrow.
Continuity of Enterprise Learning and Development
The complexity of the pandemic indicates that organizational L&D will require a high level of planning and dexterity during the potentially stretched recovery period. Starting early will help them establish detailed and measured actions and a robust bounce back. These actions will be the foundation for their competitive growth and performance long after the pandemic is over.
Organizations are all together looking back and assessing their previous L&D efforts and retain the good out of them. Online learning and virtual technology labs for hands-on experience, which remains the only option for enterprise L&D, has enabled organizations to scale their learning programs while observing higher learner engagement. We see this trend of virtual learning and development continuing into the future. Dimensions like these are already showing up in L&D outcomes and ROI metrics, without any negative effect on productivity.
On the other side, organizations are missing on subtle aspects of professionalism like body language, tone, presentation skills, and other things that might be unclear of how good and bad things are going to be until organizations resume operations at workplaces.
To summarize, COVID-19 has let organizations virtual online learning and development. If signs of misbalance between productivity and work-life balance are mitigated well, this will only be a success if organizations start tackling online L&D in a structured manner. Our advice to many of our enterprise clients has been not to take the “wait-and-see” approach, as even after COVID-19, online learning and development is going to be the new normal.
Continuity of Learning at Universities
Universities are about to start their upcoming semester; however, this is going to be virtual as of now. Universities are expected to switch to classrooms only on government orders. Important examinations and practical will be after ensuring protective measures against COVID-19.
Most universities are provisioning online learning libraries for their students. They are yet to conduct online examinations of any sort and are creating regulations on how to maintain social distance when students do go back to school. Students not having the proper infrastructure in terms of internet and devices should not be the only reason for universities’ reluctance in conducting online examinations.
Bottomline is that universities can’t just focus on learning and ignore examinations. Assessments have been the only way we have measured the effectiveness of learning programs. As we are uncertain about the stretch of the lockdown, online mock assessments or modular multi-choice assessments are of no harm to students. This will not only help universities keep a track of students’ progress, but students will be better prepared when they take the actual examination at the campus.
In short, to move forward post the pandemic phase, it is important for universities to:
- Build a robust infrastructure for tech-enabled teaching-learning
- Relax criteria/policies for universities to offer online and hybrid degrees which are economical and easier to conduct
- Build, maintain, and fund online technical training for students, ensuring their employability
- Conduct online assessments to ensure the preparedness of students even if exams on campus is delayed
The pandemic is a phase and will pass but we must contain the impact it may have on the education system and the sole purpose it serves, that is to produce industry-ready graduates.
Our old normal was physical workspaces, public transport, and a lot of classroom learning and the new normal, in contrast, is mostly like the old normal, except in this one we ready to work and learn from home, conduct online business meetings on a regular basis, earn university degrees online and be prepared for global pandemics. We expect to mend what was not accurate with the old normal and build solutions that accommodate the upcoming changes.
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