Online Learning Impact Extends Beyond Coronavirus

Apr 14, 2020 by

Education industry leader Adrian Ridner points to long-term opportunity for more personalized, accessible education resource


Government measures to protect public health against the coronavirus pandemic have confined millions of school children to their homes and upended the nation’s education system. Across states, schools are offering varying levels of scheduled, online classes as children, parents and teachers grapple with establishing new routines to minimize as much as possible the disruption to children’s education. For many, online learning is a whole new world. For CEO Adrian Ridner, however, the new ‘normal’ brings a myriad of long-term structural innovation to the education landscape, not just in the short-term.

‘Students are not one-size-fits-all, so even before having to have everyone learn remotely, it is crucial to differentiate learning,” he says. “Online learning allows you to focus on a particular need and a particular learning style. Whether it be watching a short video, reading a lesson or drilling and practicing, it offers ways to both mix and match and personalize education.”

Over the past decade, has helped millions benefit from the lower costs, improved quality and greater personalization available through online learning. Today the remote learning platform offers over 4500 courses from STEM to social science subjects available on any mobile device, with a curriculum spanning K12 through to higher education.

Ridner, originally from Argentina, came to the US with his family during his senior year of high school, then went on to earn a college degree while working his way through school. “I wish there had been online classes when I was going through school, but web technology was in its early days. For me, it’s very important to move at my own pace, there were things that I was able to understand and go faster than my peers. I was also having to pay a lot of money for textbooks and reselling them for a fraction of the price a semester later. That was financially difficult.”

Yet Ridner was ultimately inspired to create an online learning resource for another reason. “My brother Pablo has special needs. I found out early on that he could learn anything, but he did it in different ways. He was a visual and auditory learner, not a reader. Online, there are ways to visualize learning, for example, history can become much stickier than learning from a textbook or a lecture”.

Similar to how teachers can adapt teaching styles for a particular student, uses machine and adaptive learning to constantly optimize the learning experience. “We are able to look at thousands of scores and see what is working and not working and how to refine the learning for that one student and how we refine the lesson, the video or the assessment to help thousands of other students. We work with our teachers and subject matter experts to constantly use the data to improve the system and validate the learning more globally across the platform.”

Changing education landscape

Educators and parents are facing no easy task reimagining the day-to-day for themselves and their homebound students. What advice does he have for augmenting learning during this period? “Establish a sense of routine and schedule, ensure natural light and few distractions to maintain a sense of normalcy. Be responsive, keep an eye on what your child needs. Learning happens in a lot of different ways. Not just online or on the computer or with a book. Baking a cake as a family can be a lesson in chemistry. Learning is everywhere, as a parent you just need to find it and help your kid maintain curiosity.”

During this unprecedented time, is donating 100,000 licenses to schools and school districts to access its online learning platform which includes 79,000 video lessons and 12,000 lesson plans for teachers.  “To date we’ve donated over 65,000 of these and have incredible demand throughout the country, not just because of the breadth of the platform and ease of use for teachers and parents, but also because it can be used on a variety of mobile devices.”  

At the moment, online learning is considered a short-term solution for the remainder of the school-year, yet Ridner believes it is integral to the transformation already underway in education. “Mass adoption is breaking down barriers. In technology, ultimately it will help teachers and schools reimagine classroom learning and give them more tools in their toolkit. At the same time, as we transition back to the classroom, you will be able to marry the best of in-person learning, as in group projects or one-on-one instruction, with the best of online learning that can provide support. It is here to stay.”

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