How Web Developers are Solving COVID-19 Related Issues in the Education Market
Web developers have traditionally looked at the education market as an unusual niche. For the longest time, schools were heavily invested in proprietary technology. Site design was something of an afterthought as many schools figured their own students would only ever access their sites from their own network.
Due in no small part to the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions at all levels are pushing most of their lesson plans online. This is no surprise considering that we’re seeing a switch to virtual meetings in almost every industry. However, the education market is providing some unusual challenges that web developers are having to invent new solutions for.
Unique Problems Solved by Web Designers
Keeping students on task has always been relatively difficult, but it’s especially hard when they remain at home all day. Some organizations have turned to using physical mid year diaries to ensure that pupils are always keeping track of what they have to do on any given day. These planners start in June as opposed to September, which gives them a little extra time to start planning for a new academic year. Since students are likely to have to attend classes online, this will give them some additional lead time to get used to the concept.
While it’s easy to say that this might translate poorly into existing web design paradigms, web designers have taken steps to drastically alter the way that their sites work. A few have included hints for students to look at physical notebooks while others require users to type in information from their planners before they can continue.
Some students might also want to try using a time-tested notepad app, since these come with almost every digital device sold today. While they’re easy to forget about, having a window or tab opened right next to what you’re working on can help to ensure that people are always thinking about the task at hand. Web developers have started to incorporate widgets that mimic this behavior.
When a student logs into their account, they’ll see a current lesson displayed on one half of the page along with a notepad along the other. This also provides a convenient place for users to jot down information about a lesson that they might otherwise forget.
Educators have long considered technology to be a classroom distraction, but this kind of system shows that it can have the opposite effect when applied correctly. Designers are also looking at new ways to incorporate the note-taking process into other aspects of their walled gardens.
Deploying a Browser-based Teaching Interface
The Learning Strategies Center at Cornell developed a note-taking system that became widely used in high schools and colleges while they were still offering physical classes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have largely stopped encouraging students to use techniques that were specifically designed with in-seat learning in mind.
A number of creative web developers have now found ways to incorporate this paradigm into a virtual classroom. Some have opted for OneNote templates while others have sought to develop widgets that mirror their efforts to recreate the feel of traditional planners. Nevertheless, there are those who feel that this trend toward reintroducing skeuomorphism isn’t the best way to go.
Maverick designers are looking at taking advantage of new features being rolled out in a majority of modern browsers. New technologies like Rust and WebAssembly make it easy to create entire application suites that run from inside of a browser, thus eliminating the risk that a student wouldn’t be able to work with something from the comfort of their own home.
Universities emphasized virtual lecture halls at first, and many of them worked to provide live streams of classes. Augmented and virtual reality programs are all the rage right now, which certainly helped to encourage people to deploy them in their classrooms.
Self-directed learning, however, is quickly becoming the paradigm that beats all others.
Letting Students Learn on their Own
Professors are free to post videos and other content to ensure that students remain on task. However, many web developers are finding that they work their hardest when they’re given a chance to shine on their own regardless of what kind of pandemics and other health maladies the world might be facing.
Images credit: istockphoto.com