Many schools took pride in their teaching methods, flaunting them as effective and stellar until the pandemic happened and revealed how unprepared many are for a world where physical touch was prohibited. When the world was forced to shut down many activities, including formal learning, an alternative had to be sought pending the return of normalcy, if it ever would return.
Seeing that it’s been over a year since the start of the pandemic and multiple national lockdowns, it is already evident that there would be no return to normalcy and this – whatever this is – is the new normal. With this, it has become more important for teachers worldwide to find new ways to teach students in a world that is clamping down on brick-and-mortar systems.
The Problem at Hand
When national lockdowns were announced, it threw a lot of people into a frenzy. Some were worried about their jobs, their means of survival, or even their hobbies. For teachers, it was a question of “what options do we have?” Some schools and students vying for an online nursing degree had started distance learning before the pandemic, but that was because they wanted to and not because they were forced to. When it became a matter of compulsion, those who only believed in physical meetings found it difficult to adjust for a while.
A survey conducted by Intrepid in Brazil revealed some useful information about the state of many teachers. No more than 10% of the teachers expressed “happiness or satisfaction” about the situation, and 67% said they were anxious about going into this new phase. 38% were already tired at the time – few months into virtual teaching, and then even a higher percentage were taken by surprise. About 85% of these teachers remarked that they had never even given a thought to virtual learning, so they were not ready for the pivot.
Virtual Reality as a Solution
The internet and virtual reality, as an extension, have provided a means to bridge the gap between students and teachers in different parts of the world and within states. Those skeptical about working and communicating over screens now have no choice but to accept the new reality to thrive.
When this option was presented, some schools, teachers, and even countries had to take a step back initially as they were highly under-prepared to function. Some teachers had little to no understanding of operating virtual learning environments, and others lacked the equipment to do so. Even worse, some countries had chronic internet issues making it almost impossible for teachers and students to operate at full scale.
If anything, the pandemic has shown us the power of virtual reality – not that we didn’t see it before, but we underestimated it until we were forced to adapt to it. One method that countries like Turkey adopted almost immediately was the use of radio stations to teach. So they would have teachers go live at certain times, and students tune it simultaneously to be taught. This was quite effective in teaching large numbers of students even more than a classroom could hold, but there were two downsides to this: the absence of visual teaching aids and lack of access to radios in some households.
Television stations were also effective until the issue of power and lack of access to the gadget came up. As common as some of these gadgets are, they remain inaccessible to some groups around the world.
Some other groups (teachers and students) had progressed to the level of owning and using sophisticated techs like smartphones, laptops, desktops, and software. Zoom users doubled, and the situation gave rise and prominence to other software, including Webex, Google Meet, and Hangouts. These tools helped teachers teach more effectively because they could see their students and vice versa, so visual teaching aids could be utilized.
Virtual reality is a timely response to the new reality brought about by the pandemic. Although challenging for some, we saw students learn, write exams, and even attend their graduation ceremonies via virtual reality in the past year. This shows the resilience of both teachers and students in the face of challenges. In the next few years, it is predicted that virtual reality would be the solution to many more real-world problems. Hopefully, more nations and teachers would have advanced to the level of swift adaptation and implementation.