How can educators create meaningful online collaboration?

A big question for entrepreneurial educators during lockdown and the great leap online was how can we replicate the experiential collaborative and creative nature of entrepreneurial education (EE) in an online environment? We only have to look to the entrepreneurs for inspiration.

With the spread of the pandemic, almost all countries implemented lockdowns, shutting down activities involving human gathering and interactions – including colleges, schools, temples, offices, airports, and railway stations. The lockdown resulted in most people taking to the internet and internet-based services to communicate, interact, home-school and attempt to continue working from home. Internet services have seen rises in usage from 40 % to 100 %, compared to pre-lockdown levels.

This surge in digital activity has included increased opportunities for global communication and collaboration – all sorts of social and cultural activities emerged online in response to the needs of isolation, driven by creative and entrepreneurial ideas. Video-conferencing services like Zoom have seen a ten times increase in usage, and content delivery services like Akamai have seen a 30 % increase in content usage (Branscombe, 2020). This has led to diverse individuals harnessing their interests and talents to create value for others. Online dance crazes, fitness classes, music production and craft classes brought people together in positive and constructive ways to connect, learn new skills and express themselves to try to make sense of what they were experiencing.

Looking to entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs and educators have begun to harness the potential of these shifts and developments with online learning events like immersive video tours, hackathons, retreats, cafes, escape rooms and bootcamps, structuring connections and value creation in creative and engaging ways. Many good ideas have emerged from the constraints of the pandemic with the potential to be applied for learning purposes and value.  

Furthermore, emerging media such as augmented and virtual realities, 3D printing, and artificial intelligence allow students to communicate and create in novel and innovative ways. Traditional industries like publishing or music have been disrupted by new means of distribution like self-publishing which are ripe for learners to use to present their learning in creative ways and support huge potential for peer-to-peer learning and assessment.

Learning online potentially connects learners to the whole world as an audience and learning resource. The biggest threat to this potential is the digital divide – engaging with wide ranging online experiences provides real-world opportunities for learners to practise and develop critical digital competences an inherent and key element of live and work in the digital world. Educators can use the real world for inspiration and engagement. It is vital to equip young learners with the digital skills they need not only today but tomorrow and beyond.

Hazel Israel,
Education and Skills Advisor
Bantani Education