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 question from my 6-year old that’s hard to say “NO” to.

“No baby, you know that we can’t hang out other people, right? It’s why your school was called off too,” I try to remind him of ‘social distancing’, but to a tender brain it doesn’t mean anything other than an extended summer vacation! COVID-19, what’s that?!

“But my 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 due to COVID-19, educators across the world have switched to online learningto ensure ‘learning doesn’t stop’. Hundreds and thousands of school- and college-going children now attend virtual lectures, submit assignments and take up assessments and courses – all from their comforts of their homes.

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

Unesco has put together a complete list of distance learning tools comprising educational applications, platforms and resources to help parents, teachers, schools and school administrators facilitate student learning and provide social care and interaction during periods of school closure.

Children learn remotely during the COVID-19 crisis

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 all countries – developing as well as the developed ones. While students in more affluent pockets are able to switch to classes using theirpersonal devices and platforms like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, many poverty stricken children are being left behind.A UNESCO report estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will adversely impact over 290 million students across 22 countries!

The Distributed Workforce

In addition to the serious implications on education, coronavirus has disrupted businessesworldwide as governments across the world impose curfews in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

This disruption has taken form of remote working, as organizations rolled out work from home policies for their white-collar workforce, replacedin-person meetings with virtual conferences, implemented travel bans.Companies are testing technological capabilities, emergency notification systems and updating employee contact information at an unprecedented rate. Employees have been advised to take their laptops or other portable equipment home and convert their homespace into a make-shift workspace. IT staff has been working round-the-clock to help employees set up remote connections at home, sometimes on employees’ personal computers too.

The UpsideLMS team works from home

Change Management has become as way of life for millions of office workers worldwide as we learn and unlearn our ways of communication, reporting, learning and coping.

In short, widespread remote work has become a “gigantic test” conducted on an “unprecedented scale” across the world as the Coronavirus outbreak runs havoc in our lives and work.

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

Plethora offers a Free for all Pandemic Awareness Video

But as the digital divide makes its presence felt for learners with regard to their ability to access learning, governmentenforced rules and laws also create a divide for the providers. In India, the skill development and entrepreneurship ministry has 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 isolation and social distancing seems to be a test of our resilience, patience and humanity, technology is truly a blessing.

As my colleague, Amar Pawar, writes on LinkedIn:

– Businesses continue to function and survive with work from home policies. Thanks to cloud, remote connectivity & communication tech.

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

– Your entertainment is delivered right 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 totelecom 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 which is most predictive of eventual success – preparation and preemption.

As I preempt another situation of the husband and me heading to the same room 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 a safe and healthy remote working. This too shall pass!

‘The month that was’ is a monthly column covering the hot and the happening in the eLearning, 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 the Learning & Development fraternity abreast with the latest news and views, it is a vent out for the author, Pranjalee Lahri, who deals with a one-and-a-half men pair – her hubby and her 6-year old son – as she moonlights as a wife and a mother.

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