Change is in the wind – fly with it.

Amit Chakma
Amit ChakmaCollected

I have, in previous writings, urged our young learners to pursue knowledge and eradicate the darkness of ignorance through the light of knowledge to make our post-COVID world a better place for all. In this piece, I want to draw your attention to an essential aspect of the evolving environment you need to prepare yourself for, namely change.

Status quo is comfortable but is not sustainable in the long run as the saying goes in an unpredictable world, the only thing that remains constant is change. Change is inevitable. Since you cannot avoid it, you need to embrace it and make the best of it by seizing unique opportunities change creates.

An online class makes the classroom accessible 24/7, allowing keen learners to master the subject matter at their own pace.

Change is always difficult under any circumstances. It becomes even more complicated when it happens suddenly. Till the current pandemic is brought under control, required social distancing means that we will not be able to learn the way we have learning in the past. We have adopted online learning by necessity and are discovering its pluses and minuses.

Many are critical of online learning. The conventional wisdom is that it can never be a total substitute for face to face learning. Is that true? Partly, but not entirely. What online learning cannot do is to re-create the social learning environment that exists in a physical classroom. Appropriately done, learning of content or subject matter, need not diminish an iota.

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Is learning in a classroom flawless? Not at all. It is well known that we all have different learning styles. Classroom teaching typically caters to one style of learning, thus benefiting only a group of learners. Those who did not fully capture the essence of the lecture because of their different learning style then need to pick up the missing pieces through group learning outside of the classroom. An online class makes the classroom accessible 24/7, allowing keen learners to master the subject matter at their own pace.

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The most significant drawback of online learning is not online learning itself. It is a lack of preparedness. Universities needed to put courses online in a hurry. Those who embraced online learning earlier were better prepared than most. Early adopters are leaders and risk-takers, and they are reaping the benefits of that risk-taking now. As universities and professors become better at delivering online education, the learning experience will improve significantly.

The most significant impact of the proliferation of online education will be access to vast numbers of high-quality academic programmes and associated courses all over the world and, in many instances, at a much lower cost to the learners. Until now, most universities have not adopted online education as part of their mainstream academic offerings. The COVID crisis has the potential of becoming the "UBER" event for educational institutions. The emergence of UBER as the most significant transportation company without owning a single vehicle had disrupted the taxi business with a devastating impact on those who made a living driving taxis.

It is too early to tell how far the effect of COVID induced move to online education would be on universities. I think it is reasonable to believe that online will received full acceptance as a valid delivery tool for academic programmes. In my view, it will usher in the golden age of learning for the avid learner.

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Today, there are way more learning modules/programmes available online from new and established educational providers than one can ever aspire to learn. Some of them are offered free of cost. The only barrier to learning for an avid learner is access to adequate speed internet. What is still difficult is to receive recognised credentials but not learning.

Change is here. The best tool you can arm yourself with to deal with the challenges and at the same time also seize the opportunities presented by the changes is to embrace lifelong learning. Try to become a master learner, learn how to learn and unlearn, and continue along the path of learning the learning for the rest of your life. And online learning will allow you to do just that.

There are also many online degree programs that are available at much lower costs than on-campus versions. Here is an excellent example. It costs more than $40,000 to take a Master’s Programme in computer science from the prestigious Georgia Tech. The fee for the online version is only $7,000. Students now have access to one of the top Master's programme in computer science from anywhere in the world. Arizona State University offers several full degree programs online, including business and engineering degrees. Any qualified student from Bangladesh can avail of these and other such programmes from many leading universities around the world without having to leave home.

Finally, we all need to become lifelong learners. It is not a cliché anymore – it is a must. Make lifelong learning an enjoyable habit. Discover the joy of learning for the sake of learning to enhance your knowledge, to enrich your lives, and to make you a better-educated person.

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After having spent my entire adult life in an academic setting, I am a life-long learner. I take online courses on various topics, including business, law, history, culture, etc. I am fluent in Chakma, Bengali, English and French. Now I am learning Spanish online. You’ll have to do the same and more much more. If you explore the internet for quality learning resources, there are plenty. I have downloaded so many old books into my iPad, I'll probably need at least five years to finish reading them.

If you are inspired by what I have to say and wish to explore lifelong learning from the net but unsure about where to begin, why don't you start learning a language? It can be a traditional language like Mandarin, French or Spanish, or it could be a computer programming language.

What I would like to leave you with is this. Change is here. The best tool you can arm yourself with to deal with the challenges and at the same time also seize the opportunities presented by the changes is to embrace lifelong learning. Try to become a master learner, learn how to learn and unlearn, and continue along the path of learning the learning for the rest of your life. And online learning will allow you to do just that.

The motto of my Alma Mater, the University of British Columbia in Latin is “Tuum Est” – it is up to you. Lifelong learners and future makers – it is truly up to you to decide what you wish to do and accomplish with your beautiful but relatively short life. My humble advice: make the best of your life through learning because as mortals we all have only one life to live.

https://www.coursera.org/

https://www.edx.org/

Free online courses from leading universities

Harvard: https://online-learning.harvard.edu/catalog/free

MIT: https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Stanford: https://online.stanford.edu/free-courses

Links to leading universities with extensive online degree offerings

Australia: Deakin University: https://www.deakin.edu.au/study-online

Canada: Universities in Ontario – e Campus Ontario: https://www.ecampusontario.ca/

UK: The Open University : https://www.open.edu/openlearn/free-courses/full-catalogue

USA : Arizona State University : https://asuonline.asu.edu/online-degree-programs/

Online learning resources for high school students

https://www.khanacademy.org/

For lifelong learners, examples of the richness of courses available online:

For Philosophy lovers: From the University of Edinburgh

Introduction to Philosophy from the University of Edinburgh : https://www.ed.ac.uk/ppls/philosophy/research/impact/free-online-courses/introduction-to-philosophy

Know Thyself from the University of Edinburgh:https://www.ed.ac.uk/ppls/philosophy/research/impact/free-online-courses/know-thyself

Philosophy, Science and Religion from the University of Edinburgh

https://www.ed.ac.uk/ppls/philosophy/research/impact/free-online-courses/philosophy-science-and-religion

Death from Yale University: https://oyc.yale.edu/death/phil-176

For history lovers:

The Ancient World Rome from MIT

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/history/21h-132-the-ancient-world-rome-spring-2017/index.htm?utm_source=OCWDept&utm_medium=CarouselSm&utm_campaign=FeaturedCourse

Making Books: The Renaissance and Today from MIT

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/history/21h-343j-making-books-the-renaissance-and-today-spring-2016/index.htm?utm_source=OCWDept&utm_medium=CarouselSm&utm_campaign=FeaturedCourse

Amit Chakma is Vice-Chancellor, The University of Western Australia