All over the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our expectations of the classroom. It has challenged us to reimagine learning and reconsider our understanding of educational accessibility. As schools around the world realize that their infrastructure may be outdated and begin to make systemic changes, we are left to wonder what the future holds. What will these quickly evolving systems of education look like in the future?
Reimagining the Classroom Space
While the initial reactions to the pandemic resulted in a massive shift to online learning from home, making plans to bring students back into controlled learning environments has prompted educational leaders to reconsider how we design and use classroom space.
Schools in Utah have turned to the great outdoors to bring their students back to a safe and stimulating environment. While the move was initially intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in often poorly ventilated enclosed classrooms, instructors from preschool into college are documenting an increase in student focus, creativity, mental wellness and educational equity, which suggests that a shift to outdoor learning is beneficial not only in crisis situations, but possibly at other times, too.
Of course, not all schools have the weather, land and funds to move classrooms outdoors. Furniture design companies like Steelcase and Smith System are also preparing to redesign the traditional classroom in ways that foster indoor learning while keeping students safe. Factors driving traditional educational space planning include density and cost, but future planning must be more flexible, fluid and adaptable. From desk placement for social distancing to clear barriers that allow students to collaborate while staying safe, new fixtures and classroom furniture will take on a heightened level of importance for school leaders.
Enhancing Hybrid Educational Offerings
While the physical classroom space might look different in the future, it is not the only way in which classrooms are likely to change. Schools across the country have creatively adapted to hybrid classroom solutions, blending the best of traditional face-to-face learning with digital technologies.
For example, when using the HyFlex or Hybrid-Flexible model of instruction, students can toggle back and forth between in-person and virtual formats as needed. This and other flexible models allow education to proceed with minimal interruption during times of crisis, whether national, local or personal. Although the pandemic impacted the entire country, it is not the only crisis that can disrupt learning for students; hurricanes, tropical storms and forest fires, as well as other major life events, such as illness or family tragedies, can all impact student learning.
Enhancing Creativity Through Real-World Experience
Although technological innovations are currently in the spotlight, it is imperative that educators consider the qualities of future curricula as well. Providing teachers with curricular support and technology will enable them to adopt a student-centered approach.
Take the #StoryCity initiative. Originally created for isolated families during the pandemic, this initiative uses play and real-world situations to foster creativity and problem-solving skills. With #StoryCity, families from all over the world can use everyday materials to make buildings and invent narratives to share via social media, building a mosaic of collaboration and creativity.
The shift to remote instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic forced educational systems worldwide to pivot and adapt. It’s likely that teaching and learning will permanently incorporate some of these changes, with classrooms of the future shaping up accordingly. The reimagining of physical spaces, hybrid-flexible educational models, and enhanced creativity are some of the positives to emerge from a challenging time for educators across the globe.
Learn more about Lamar University’s online Master of Education in Administration program.