In a crisis, inequalities are likely to widen. What the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made evident is the gap between education systems that already have a robust platform of solutions to deliver remote learning and those that don’t. These gaps highlight the disparities in access to electricity, the internet, and devices. While those are considered to be the main challenges, there is a whole set of additional gaps that become evident even when the basic infrastructure is available.
First, COVID-19 has exposed a large digital gap in how to use technology in a pedagogically meaningful way to enhance teaching and learning. Additionally, we see the school digital gap that distinguishes between education institutions that are simply content suppliers and those that can maximize learning by offering much more than access to educational materials (online and via radio or TV). The latter gap highlights whether a school has the capacity to offer well planned and carefully selected sequences of digital learning, along with appropriate monitoring mechanisms. The emphasis should be not only on the delivery of resources but also on generating engagement and active feedback – a situation where, instead of simply maximizing the time online, educators prioritize the quality of the learning experience.
The three examples below illustrate how to reduce the current and (potentially) future learning inequalities. These country experiences are organized into three categories: content curation and classification; scalable technologies; and digital pedagogies.
1) Leveraging content that already exists rather than creating new content. As a quick first step, the Spanish team aggregated all the educational content already made available by the administration. Then major publishers were invited to share their educational materials (mainly short videos). In addition, digital learning resources were collected from other sources such as social media (videos from popular YouTuber teachers).
2) Classifying and categorizing resources. Two teams of educators (for primary and secondary) revised, selected, and validated the resources. This process not only focused on the usefulness of the resources but also aligned them with the national plan (structured by age and subject). Given the emergency circumstances, and the need to act fast, flexible quality controls were applied.
3) Multi-channel sharing of resources. Educational resources are now broadcast five hours every day via public TV (three hours in “Educlan” and two in “La 2”, from RTVE) and online (on demand). Learners (and teachers), can either watch television at the times that match their age and grade, or can access these resources online.