As we were celebrating the last hurrah of the year in the form of Christmas, Santa Claus brought about a surge of Omicron cases as the customary season’s gifts. While COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its third year, cases in the US (and also all over the world) continue to rise exponentially, like wildfire, like cold butter on hot pancakes, like water leaking from a broken faucet….in short, like a virus!
I know, I know we are all feeling like, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I am so sick of COVID.’ But let’s face it, you gotta do what you gotta do. And so instead of sitting and sulking around for yet another year, we decided to bear it with a pinch of humour and a positive spirit. Let’s begin by talking about one thing at a time…
Outbreak of Omicron
Before we delve into how Omicron contagion is affecting the education space and what are the predictions that can or can not be followed, let’s first look at a clear picture of the damage already done.
The new record was set when the US recorded the maximum number of Omicron cases in the last week of December which amounted to 267,000 in an average weekly calculation by a New York Times Database in Washington D.C.,Virginia and Maryland particularly hit harder. As the third year of the coronavirus wave looms, citizens are cautioned to take precautions as this wave is predicted to only get worse.
While this data may mean different things to different industries, we will only focus on the education and the corporate sector here.
Changes in School Strategies
Many schools, universities and educational institutions either returned to normal in 2021, or were on the verge of opening up. Although online education has aided in making teaching and learning easier, however, no number of online classes, edX’s courses or Khan Academies can make up for classroom teaching. Education still remains a very traditional industry and online learning continues to be hampered by factors like internet divide, opportunity gaps and more which can most likely only be overcome by in person teaching.
With this news in hindsight, many schools in African, Middle East, and Western countries which had announced plans to return to campus find their planning derailed. According to a report in Forbes, many of these institutions are putting their scheme on pause and are “mitigation strategies – from mandating vaccine booster shots to starting classes remotely next semester to postponing the start of the semester for a few weeks.” Another report in the BBC says, “many schools in the UK are ensuring their online learning provision is ready to go, in case they can’t open fully in the new year.”
As per this data, it will be safe to say that educational institutions will need to devise newer and more permanent ways of online learning and teaching and that they offer online courses which may stand against the will of the virus to battle and cope up with yearly lockdowns, viral uncertainties and temporary shutdowns in 2022.
Changes in Corporate Offices
The regular office drill of nine to five was anyway expected to be reformed, especially after the growing up of the Gen X, Y and Z. But in the wake of the pandemic year after year, this change is only expected to be fast tracked. And now that flexible hour shifts and the WFH model has been adapted in most office spaces, it is only more likely that corporates will come up with even better and newer hybrid models to make working easier and more efficient.
New edtech startups are rapidly propping up to meet the rising demands for corporate training programs and online courses. Likewise, new methodologies like microlearning, corporate programs, training modules, gamification in the workplace, recruitment-based programs etc. are filling in the gaps for in-person training and offline programmes in workspaces. And although people are becoming more and more comfortable working from home, let’s agree that we all want, for once, to get up, dress up and show up in the office for some fun watercooler conversations and socialising.