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Study: One year later, students and educators in Malaysia are beginning to crack the code for online learning

 As schools cross the one-year mark since the rapid shift to virtual classrooms, a new study commissioned by Lenovo and Microsoft has found that both students and educators see enormous potential in online learning, but are just beginning to enjoy its advantages. The biggest barriers to success in online learning have not been a lack of technology access, but low use of available solutions and social challenges stemming from extended periods of remote learning.


Conducted by specialist firms YouGov and Terrapin across 12 markets in Asia Pacific during May 2021, the study examined nearly 3,400 students, parents and educators to understand their assessment of e-learning since the pandemic began, including 366 respondents in Malaysia, and explored how technology can further engage students and support learning.


“With schools closed in many countries for the better part of 2020, educators, parents and students alike have grappled with new learning technologies. This study has helped us better understand how educators, parents and students have adapted to online learning during the pandemic, what the real challenges are, and what solutions can be deployed to help make learning technologies more effective,” said Eddie Ang, Executive Director & General Manager, Corporate & Public Sector Business, Lenovo Asia Pacific.


“The role of technology has become a much needed lifeline in enabling teaching and learning between students and educators today. Despite the challenges faced over the last year, we admire the resilience and adaptability students and educators have had as classrooms shifted from traditional set-ups to virtual environments. As we move forward, it is clear innovation will continue to transform learning experiences – and we remain committed in supporting the industry with the right tools and solutions so that they are equipped for the new age of education,” said Larry Nelson, Regional General Manager, Education, Microsoft Asia.


“The transition from face-to-face to online learning has been quite a journey for many schools. As an educator who has been a part of Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Indah’s transformation journey since 2018 and into online learning from last year, it is clear that technology has given us massive benefits. We must acknowledge that as students and teachers return to school in stages, teaching and learning will be completely different. Students and teachers must be able to adapt to a hybrid learning style by incorporating technology into their daily learning routines,” shared Mohd Fadzli bin Ishak, Assistant Director, Johor State Education Department.


Technology in education became the norm during the past year – with mixed results


In Malaysia, more than 96% of students and 99% of educators increased their use of technology during the past year, while 88% of students and 84% of educators spent more money on technology during the past year than they had in the previous year. This trend will continue, with 83% of students and 89% of educators expecting to further increase their spending on learning technology in the coming year.


Educators and students had differing opinions on the impact of online classes on educational performance. Educators were relatively positive about their teaching performance online, with 66% of educators in Malaysia confident that teaching performance had improved, and 19% believing it had been maintained. However, students’ assessment was mixed: 42% of students believed their performance had improved, 25% believed it had stayed the same during the period of online learning, and the remaining 33% believed their learning performance had declined.


Accessibility and convenience are major advantages of online learning


Among students, accessibility (66%) and flexibility (57%) were named as major advantages of online learning, including the ability to access a broad variety of content and materials from all over the world. Additionally, 62% of students and 75% of educators praised the convenience of eliminating the need to commute.


Meanwhile, 68% of educators highlighted the advantages of centralizing the teaching materials in one easily accessible online resource such as Microsoft Teams for Education, along with 54% who commend the fact that e-learning encourages collaborative learning, and allows for more personalised learning and support.


Students and educators know what they want – but are just beginning to leverage existing solutions


Students and their parents said it was “extremely important” that their technology provides security (85%), privacy (81%), flexible performance (78%), and continuous value (74%). Just 63% considered it to be extremely important to have the lowest possible cost for a technology solution.


Educators were also interested in education-specific security (72%) and data privacy (74%), but additionally named collaboration features (58%), student assessment tools (60%), general ease of use (54%), and accessibility features (48%) as extremely important.


However, although 89% of students used a laptop such as a Lenovo Yoga and 29% used a tablet such as a Lenovo IdeaPad to access online learning, few had embraced the full suite of learning solutions: just 49% of students used video conference apps such as Microsoft Teams, only 21% used cloud-based document sharing, and 13% used remote access files. Around 20% of students had access to an online learning management system.


Almost 95% of educators used a laptop such as a Lenovo ThinkPad for their daily teaching. While 81% had used video conference apps, only 56% used cloud-based document sharing, and just 33% used remote access files. Around 70% used an online learning management system. Additionally, 35% had used a virtual reality platform such as Lenovo ThinkReality.


Students and educators find ways to cope with tech support, but distraction, engagement and isolation are barriers


Physical distance did not deter students or teachers from getting the technical support they needed while e-learning; although many school technical support teams were unable to cope with the volatile demand, students and educators found alternative sources of support. Students were more likely (48%) to ask a classmate, friend, or younger household member for help than they were to go to school tech support staff (13%). Similarly, 40% of educators addressed their concerns to the school tech support team, but 36% simply tried to find an answer themselves, 32% asked another teacher, and at least 8% consulted with a nearby teenager.


Around 17% of educators had embraced device-as-a-service (DaaS). DaaS offers a subscription-based model including laptops, desktops, tablets, tech support, software and management services.


Students and educators found the most profound barriers to online learning in the social sphere. More than 59% of students and 68% of educators indicated that they experienced weakened social relationships during the period of online learning. The top four factors listed as challenges by students and their parents were distractions at home (64%), less motivation to attend online classes at home (64%), lack of immediate feedback and interaction with teachers/classmates (59%) and social isolation or difficulty in meeting people (52%).


While video conferencing applications provide many avenues for real-time interaction, attending all their classes through a screen proved to be challenging for students. 89% of educators listed “students get distracted or lose concentration during live sessions” as one of the major barriers to e-learning.


New subscription models, smarter collaboration and devices can unlock potential of online learning


“What we see from this study is that there can be enormous benefits from education technologies, but students and educators have yet to embrace its full potential,” continued Eddie Ang. “Both students and educators are looking for collaborative, personalized learning – using technologies that can keep them engaged, with the material and with each other. Lenovo is at the forefront of these technologies, with built-in features leveraging Artificial Intelligence, helping create opportunities for online engagement, and providing convenience and reliability.”


Lenovo’s services portfolio supports ongoing learning by bringing end-to-end solutions to schools and universities.


Lenovo Managed Services equips all devices with cybersecurity software and secure collaboration tools that ensure data protection and student safety

Lenovo Device as a Service (DaaS) ensures comprehensive technical management, helpdesk, and support for students and educators on and off campus

Lenovo Hybrid Classroom solutions create more dynamic learning environments with all-in-one smart collaboration systems like the ThinkSmart Hub, making it easy for students and educators to connect, share, and learn remotely.

VR devices and solutions such as ThinkReality and Lenovo VR Classroom 2 allow educators to further engage and inspire students through virtual reality lessons that enhance students’ understanding of subject matter


As the world adjusts to a new normal, education is entering a new age of teaching and learning. Advanced technologies are paving the way for students to experience immersive learning with real-world applications, and empowering educators to help students continue learning through new and different methods, wherever they may be.