Article: Digital Learning in 2021

Online Education in Spain

Online Education in Spain

Jul. 14, 2021

by Mark Szawlowski

In the age of ‘just-a-click-away,’ the immediate gratification of ‘likes’, and bombardment of social media, one has to wonder at the consequences for an individual’s capacity to concentrate, especially in the online learning environment.

Business center in Barcelona. Credit: Shutterstock / GaudiLab

Globally, EdTech had become big business well before the pandemic struck. Its sheer scale is evidenced by the fact that as of January of this year, the world had seen 19 EdTech Unicorns—enterprises valued north of USD1 billion. These have collectively raised funding of over USD13.7 billion over a single decade, pushing their collective value to over USD64 billion.

Meanwhile, the advantages of online education, at first glance anyway, are patently obvious. The removal of geographical distance means access without travel, accommodation, and living costs. And from that, one might also conclude that in diversifying opportunities it further democratizes the learning experience.

Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, like online working, it represented an immediate solution to the problem of obligatory isolation. Let's remember here, too, that Spain had it bad early in the pandemic.

So far, so good. But if online learning—in broad brushstrokes—merits an 'A+', we should perhaps insert a few qualifying comments in the margins of the report card. In the online era, attention span, not to mention patience, while using a screen is roughly eight seconds. The skeptical reader at this point need only recall the eternity of waiting for an app to open.

Spain's Online Learning (Curve)

With high levels of transmission early in the pandemic, Spain ended traditional classes at the start of March 2020. By March 16, schools nationwide had commenced remote teaching. An unprecedented event, the education system did its best in the uncharted waters of lockdown. In state schools the word of the moment was 'Roble', the most widely used online platform, although others were also in use.

Addressing the limitations of online learning, María Aránzazu de las Heras García, President of Universidad a Distancia de Madrid (UDIMA), told TBY that, “…in order to guarantee the quality of our educational services, we had to search for latest state-of-the-art video conferencing tools transforming our face-to-face lessons into streaming classes. Among other things, we bought big screens on which the professor could see the students while teaching." UDIMA, Spain's pioneering distance university, today offers numerous undergraduate and postgraduate degrees to over 7,000 students worldwide.

Outside of the school environment, many took advantage of more free time for self-improvement. The pandemic has spurred professional upskilling. Conrado Briceño, CEO of international educational group IMF Smart Education, stated that “Currently […] IMF is probably the largest "university" project in Spain without being a university. Our value proposition is built on professional education, which gives us a level of flexibility, innovation, relevance, and speed that is difficult to match." In full partnership with Deloitte, IMF offers a learning methodology with a completely practical approach, allowing students to access Deloitte's selection processes and internships.

Overall, online learning, foisted upon the wider world by COVID-19, ultimately has both its merits and downsides. Where children's learning is concerned, many parents had already been supplementing physical schooling with remote one-on-on teaching for regular and extracurricular subjects.

As for the future, many lessons have now been learned the hard way about the advantages of shorter, punchier classes, which could be applied after the return to brick-and-mortar schooling. As with schooling, so too with industry and the economy overall, digitalization is for some the eagerly-awaited, and for others the merely unavoidable highway to tomorrow's world.