Social Distancing and Connected Everything - The Month That Was


Exactly 4 weeks back, my kid’s school closed down as a preventive measure against Coronavirus. A move all parents and caregivers welcomed with open arms! A week later, my husband’s company implemented a to-and-fro travel ban, meaning as the Sales Head he was not to engage in any face-to-face meeting with his clients. This homeboundnesswas compounded in just another week as my company followed suit and issued a remote working policy for me and 79 other UpsideLMSers. And then, just like that, our “normal” was swapped with a“new normal” as we now work FROM, and FOR, home.

“Mumma,can I go out to play with my friends?” comes an innocence-loaded questionfrom my 6-year old that’s hard to say “NO” to.

“Nobaby, you know that we can’t hang out other people, right? It’s why your schoolwas called off too,” I try to remind him of ‘social distancing’, but to atender brain it doesn’t mean anything other than an extended summer vacation!COVID-19, what’s that?!

“Butmy friends still go to school”, he tells me nonchalantly.

“What?Really?” I say almost choking on my breakfast.

“Yes mumma,<name> and<name>have classes everyday!”

True that!

With schools being locked down dueto COVID-19, educators across the world have switched to online learningtoensure ‘learning doesn’t stop’. Hundreds and thousands of school- and college-goingchildren now attend virtual lectures, submit assignments and take upassessments and courses - all from their comforts of their homes.

Not just that, with many schoolsand colleges closed, companies such as Byju's,Unacademy and Vedantu are offering free access to live classes.

Unescohas put together a complete list of distance learning tools comprising educationalapplications, platforms and resources to help parents, teachers, schools andschool administrators facilitate student learning and provide social care andinteraction during periods of school closure.

Children learn remotely during the COVID-19crisis

However, relying on remote learning and online classes also exposes deep digital divides in our society with the transition to digital learning being especially challenging within lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

The story repeats itself in allcountries – developing as well as the developed ones. While students in moreaffluent pockets are able to switch to classes using theirpersonal devices and platformslike Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, many poverty stricken children arebeing left behind.A UNESCO report estimates that the coronavirus pandemic willadversely impact over290 million students across 22 countries!

The Distributed Workforce

In addition to the seriousimplications on education, coronavirus has disrupted businessesworldwide asgovernments across the world impose curfews in a bid to contain the spread of thedeadly virus.

This disruption has taken form ofremote working, as organizations rolled out work from home policies for theirwhite-collar workforce, replacedin-person meetings with virtual conferences,implemented travel bans.Companiesare testing technological capabilities, emergency notification systems andupdating employee contact information at an unprecedented rate. Employees havebeen advised to take their laptops or other portable equipment home and converttheir homespace into a make-shift workspace. IT staff has been workinground-the-clock to help employees set up remote connections at home, sometimeson employees' personal computers too.

The UpsideLMS team works from home

ChangeManagement has become as way of life for millions of office workersworldwide as we learn and unlearn our ways of communication, reporting,learning and coping.

In short, widespreadremote work has become a “gigantic test” conducted on an “unprecedentedscale” across the world as the Coronavirus outbreak runs havoc in our lives andwork.

It’s not just remote working, but‘remote learning’ too as IBM decides to hold its “Think 2020” client anddeveloper conference and its “PartnerWorld” for business partners as “a global,digital-first event” with a combination of live streamed content, interactivesessions, certification, and locally hosted events.Organizational L&Dinterventions too are undergoing a rapid shift from Classroom Training (ILT) toa Blended Learning approach with eLearning, Mobile Learning and VirtualClassroom.For organizations that do not have online training, COVID-19 haspaved the way for eLearning.

Providers of Learning Management Systems and eLearning content have come forward in support of those distressed with the pandemic by offering their platforms, videos and courses free (head over to Plethora Free Trial to access a free Pandemic Awareness Video

But as the digital divide makes its presence felt for learners with regard to their ability to access learning, government-enforced rules and laws also create a divide for the providers. In India, the skill development and entrepreneurship ministry have issued an advisory to its affiliated institutes to remain closed as per state governments’ directives amid the Covid-19 outbreak, potentially slowing down the pace of skills training in the country.

Connected everything

In times where physical isolationand social distancing seems to be a test of our resilience, patience andhumanity, technology is truly a blessing.

As my colleague, AmarPawar, writes on LinkedIn:

- Businesses continue to functionand survive with work from home policies. Thanks to cloud, remote connectivity & communication tech.

- Food, medicines, other essentialsand non-essentials are delivered home. Thanks to eCommerce.

- Your entertainment is deliveredright to your home and even to you phones. Thanks to online streaming services.

- You continue to stay in touch with your loved ones in this time of physical isolation. Thanks, to telecom and social media.

- You continue to learn and skill. Thanks to Learning Management Systems and Online Content Marketplaces.

As a recent Harvard Business Review article observed, “When the urgent part of the crisis has been navigated, companies should consider what this crisis changes and what they’ve learned so they can reflect them in their plans.” Also, it’s wise to be mindful of the fact that Covid-19 is not a one-off challenge. It’s critical to prepare for the next crisis. The research on the effectiveness of organizational responses to dynamic crises indicates that there is one variable that is most predictive of eventual success – preparation and preemption.

As I preempt another situation of the husband and me heading to the sameroom at the same time for a virtual conference call and prepare to have the door knocked at by my kid, I wish all of you asafe and healthy remote working. This tooshall pass!

‘Themonth that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in theeLearning, L&D and learning technology space presented in a light,easy-to-digest format. While the aim of these posts is to keep the HR and theLearning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views,it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with aone-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlightsas a wife and a mother.