20 May 2021

​The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the speed of digital transformation in every sector. But pre-Covid, the digital gap was more evident in some sectors than others. Take education, for instance.

The headlines have been clear: pupils with no access to laptops and schools grappling with how to move lessons out of the classroom and onto virtual forums. According to estimates from the Department for Education, 10,000 schools in England had limited or no remote teaching and learning capability.

It wasn’t that the education sector didn’t recognise the importance of digital transformation prior to March 2020. It was just that when the Covid-19 crisis hit, digital transformation suddenly became a top priority. More than that, it has become the top priority for schools, colleges and universities.

The pandemic was brutal in revealing the digital ‘haves’ and the digital ‘have nots’ across the education sector. Now, if education providers are to win back student (and parent) trust, they need to build a deeper digital relationship with their students.

The sector may be playing catch-up, but it has realised that full digital transformation is the only option. Long-term plans have become short-term actions that will reimagine education. And that can only be a good thing.

Microsoft’s role in transforming the education sector

One way that schools are reimagining how they deliver learning is through collaboration. By working alongside companies such as Microsoft, schools have been able to continue delivering education and minimise the negative impacts of lockdown for students.

The rapid rollout of Microsoft Teams has not only allowed schools, colleges and universities to move teaching online, it has given institutions the opportunity to learn from one another.

One UK government initiative, Microsoft Showcase Schools, selects schools that have actively embraced technology to create personalised, immersive and inclusive experiences for children. These ‘demonstrator schools’ then help other schools build digital strategies and select learning platforms.

The need for a global response

Microsoft’s vision is to transform education not just in a few countries, but in every country with a curriculum. In the same way that the impact of Covid-19 has no borders, neither should the solutions, explained Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president. At the peak of the pandemic, 1.6 billion students were out of school. No government in any country was prepared for such extreme levels of disruption. The only way forward was through partnerships and agility.

Microsoft was able to act fast, and work collaboratively to create a global response to the crisis. Working alongside Unicef and Cambridge University, it had initially developed the Learning Passport to provide education for displaced and refugee children. Faced with Covid, the initiative was rolled out globally, bringing the classroom into millions of children’s homes. Meanwhile, as part of the Global Learning Connection, students from more than 80 countries took part in immersive and interactive experiences and shared their own culture and traditions.

Even Microsoft-owned Minecraft has had a part to play. According to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, one school in Japan hosted its graduation on Minecraft by building a virtual assembly hall and seating to recreate a sense of community for pupils and parents.

Time to start rethinking learning

As lockdowns ease and restrictions are lifted, it’s time to rethink education. Technology has had such a huge impact on our lives for so long, yet school structures have largely stayed the same. The question now is how to use technology to move away from a teaching culture to a learning culture.

There’s more to it than transforming education for students. Education needs to be transformed for teachers, too. With the help of new technology, devices and tools, the roles and relationships of students, teachers and parents can change forever.

Microsoft wants to empower students to learn for themselves – and challenge themselves. It wants to give teachers the tools to access real-time academic and emotional data about individual students, so they can support and challenge their students. And it wants parents to be more engaged, connected and involved in their child’s education.

For too long, classrooms have acted as physical barriers to learning. It’s now time to rethink that model, with learning becoming people-driven, and teachers learning alongside students.

At Talent, we know that data-based technologies are the future of learning. To find out how we can help you reimagine the education model, get in touch with our team today.