Covid-19 has created an “existential threat” to education and training in many countries and there is less than a year to build new systems that work.
That is the stark message delivered today by the organisers of Online Educa Berlin (OEB Global), Europe’s biggest annual conference on technology assisted learning, which will be held in Berlin from 2 – 4 December 2020. They claim that unless institutions, experts and investors work together to share their experience and best practice, the damage will be so serious that millions more young people could be left without any education at all.
Rebecca Stromeyer, Conference Chair of OEB Global , said in a press release published August 14, 2020:
“Our feedback from our global network of more than 80,000 education professionals, analysts and investors tells us that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on education and training around the world. Many schools, colleges and universities are facing enormous challenges just to keep going. They need help to change and we must all work together to ensure that no young person is denied an education.
“For many years, OEB Global has been saying that technology is the key to the future for education and training. We’ve talked about how it can spread opportunity and open up new horizons for people around the world. Experts and practitioners in our network have been involved in developing, producing and promoting every kind of technology assisted learning.
“Now it’s clear that the issue is not just opportunity, it’s necessity. In many countries, education now faces an existential threat. After all the advances that have been made through the UN SDGs and other initiatives, Covid-19 is a real setback. The whole world now needs to embrace blended learning in one form or another. We can no longer rely exclusively on the classroom. It’s not just about preventing another crisis in the future; it’s about ensuring that education and training don’t just disappear altogether for millions of people. Technology and blended learning have to be made a part of every learner’s experience as a matter of priority.”
Ms Stromeyer’s comments follow remarks by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who said recently:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the largest disruption of education ever. In mid-July, schools were closed in more than 160 countries, affecting over 1 billion students. At least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education in their critical pre-school year…We must take bold steps now, to create inclusive, resilient, quality education systems fit for the future.”
Ms Stromeyer said that this year’s OEB Global will focus on developing viable solutions and new partnerships to extend the reach of technology-assisted learning.
“At its heart,” she said, “will be a focus on best practice and understanding what works. This affects every sector of education and training. In schools, in universities and in the workplace, people know there has to be a big change. They are urgently looking for solutions. They are asking how to establish viable new forms of teaching, training and learning. They need methods, systems and technologies that work for them.”
Ms Stromeyer emphasised that OEB Global’s unique network provides not only access to an unrivalled pool of knowledge and expertise, but also access to some of the world’s leading solutions providers. By bringing experts, practitioners and investors together from around the world to focus on best practice and practical solutions at this year’s conference, she hopes that OEB Global will help to bring about the “sea change” that is now necessary in global education.
A major focus of the conference will be on the experience of lockdown and how schools, colleges, institutions and businesses have coped with the need to expand or develop their virtual learning environments.
Major themes of the conference include ‘implementing and scaling up’; ‘design and delivery’; ’data and learning’; ‘assessing skill and competence’; ‘supporting workforce performance’; ‘the new L&D’; ‘tech triggers’ and ‘education futures.’
Keynote speakers will include Marina Gorbis, Director of the Institute for the Future; Sean Michael Morris, Director of the Digital Pedagogy Lab at the University of Colorado; Tony O’Driscoll of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Research; Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD; Barbara Wasson, Director of the Centre for the Science of Learning and Technology at the University of Bergen; David White, Head of Digital Learning at the University of the Arts London; and Guy Wilmshurst-Smith, Head of Network Rail Training.