We are all coping with the difficulties posed by online education. I, like many skeptics of remote learning, truly believed that the education we receive in classrooms would not and could not be transposed onto an online remote platform. Actually, I believed that taking online classes would be an insult to my education. However, having been taught through Zoom for three weeks has led me to think otherwise. Sure, the quality of online instruction may not live up to in-person instruction, but educators are putting in effort to adapt and reconstruct traditional pedagogical models for electronic formats. This sudden shift to online learning has lent itself to a societal transformation, technological innovation, destigmatization of online institutions, and greater educational accessibility for disadvantaged groups. 

 Technological Innovation

The ubiquity of online education has allowed for the creation of a completely new market, allowing for new platforms to develop, rapidly enhancing the quality of online instruction. We are currently operating under a Zoom-opoly.  Zoom has become many universities’ preferred platform because of its user friendly format and effective emulation of traditional classroom instruction. However, we won’t be operating under this monopoly for long, because new and existing companies will rise to break the monopoly by attempting to create the most innovative and fool-proof platforms possible. Skype, Facebook, and many other companies are attempting to create the most adaptable platform, fighting for a spot as worthy competitor for Zoom. Despite, or maybe because of, the Zoom-opoly, the platform is still rough around the edges. Many in-person instruction experiences have not yet been emulated on the application, creating many gaps in the e-learning market. This competition will hopefully result in the creation of better online learning tools that will enhance the quality of online instruction. 

Destigmatizing Online Universities

Another not-so-obvious effect of globally transitioning to an online model is the destigmatization of online educational institutions. As students at an elite institution, we are often guilty of ridiculing online institutions. However, what we fail to realize when making such arrogant claims is that online education allows for greater flexibility at a lower cost, allowing for those in unique circumstances the ability to receive a degree and further their careers. As students of ‘Zoom University,’ online education is no longer the exception but the norm under the current circumstances. Having experienced online education first hand, we as a society will shy away from lampooning online institutions—which is the only option for some people. 

Making Education More Accessible 

I am hopeful that this global education shift will help bridge the gap between higher and lower income economic groups, allowing various groups to have greater access to education at a lower price point. The gradual destigmatization of online learning also plays a huge part in this, encouraging more people to educate themselves, even if it’s through an online format. Also, with 5G technology on the rise, educators and learners alike will be able to embrace the concept of ‘learning anywhere, anytime.’ E-learning will be integrated into routines with greater ease, allowing those with unique circumstances to receive quality education from reputable institutions. However, for this to truly happen, cheap and efficient technology needs to be made accessible to all, which will happen as online learning becomes more prevalent.   

There is still a lot to be done in the e-education space to bring it up to par with in-person instruction, however, the increase in quality of online education has precipitated one very important question: Once this crisis subsides, is it best for students to return to complete in-person instruction or could those very same experiences be mirrored online? Are we truly getting the value of our expensive in-person instruction?  Is that value more or less the same on an online platform? Sure, we are still navigating a new online environment, pedagogical forms, markets—but technology, as it usually does, rapidly grows to match the quality of in-person experiences—changing life as we know it. 

Aditi Mahesh is a member of the class of 2021 and can be reached at amahesh@wesleyan.edu.