Before the 14-day COVID-19 lockdown was enforced to also include the typical roadside sellers and small-scale retailers in open markets, schools and churches were the first institutions to be put on lockdown. These, by far, are the biggest places to find a gathering of more than 50 people.
As part of the earliest preventive measures that were adopted, the Lagos State Government enforced an indefinite shut down of schools, which became effective on the 23rd of March 2020.
The number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in Nigeria as of today is 276. As the number of cases skyrockets, the country is slowly grinding to a halt, causing a frantic restriction of movement with companies implementing a remote work structure.
As scientists work to find vaccines for the virus, it persists and records fatalities. But life must go on. This is why many technology companies have been exploring ways people can virtually continue their their daily activities without much disruption. Their efforts range from telemedicine, with techies building platforms where people can determine whether or not they have the Coronavirus symptoms, to EdTech where an opportunity already lies with over one billion learners being affected globally.
There are also virtual meetings with corporate offices and clients, employees and employers, through platforms like ZOOM and other video conferencing apps which have been greatly normalized. Platforms like uLesson and eLimu are also making virtual learning the new normal.
The pandemic is indeed giving EdTech a massive upscale with everyone stuck at home with their devices – smartphones, IPads, laptops, e.t.c. In an atmosphere of uncertainty over how long the shutdown would last, it might turn out that virtual learning will be what the Nigerian educational system needs in order to be better.
Is this a short-term commercial opportunity?
This is probably the main question to ponder on. With the pandemic disrupting our lives, will schools be revolutionized by this experience or will they revert back to their former learning processes?
In just four weeks, uLesson has recorded about 40,000 app downloads. ULesson is an Edtech startup that was founded by Sim Shagaya in 2018. It’s a digital subscription-based learning platform mainly for secondary/high school students. While it has been available in Nigeria and some African countries such as Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Gambia all along, the COVID-19 lockdown has helped it to expand even further across Africa, Europe, and even North America.
Virtual learning may seem like a short-term commercial opportunity for EdTech startups, as trends come and go. Moreover, the pandemic will not last forever. But with over a billion students currently out of school and attempting to learn online, this may be an opportunity to reshape the way education is perceived in this generation. This has been a great reveal that there is, perhaps, another better way to learning other than physical interaction between the teachers and students.
Are there shortcomings?
Even though EdTech is connecting students who are at homes with online tutors, there are limitations to virtual learning. Evidently, there are pros. It is a solution not many people took note of until the crisis happened.
With e-learning, students can wholly take charge of their learning, understanding how they want to learn, where their interests lie, and what support they actually need from personalization to time management.
However, a complete online shift of students’ education can expose some inadequacies:
- Not all kids have smartphones or reliable internet connections, and uLesson saw this foresight long before the pandemic.
- High internet costs can discourage streaming educational content online.
Beyond tech, classrooms existed because of the interactions that enabled physical coaching and the ease of monitoring of a student’s performance. However, innovations are bound to happen in any field. For Edtech, this period may prove to be a golden era. The question, however, remains whether this experience will change the way education is done after the COVID-19 pandemic or not.