Brave new world

Online learning, financial literacy are key to developing a stable society

During the Covid-19 pandemic when academic institutes are forced to close, online learning equates to borderless learning which allows people to learn anywhere, anytime and any subject. Aside from students, people who work from home also have more time to turn to online learning to enhance their knowledge.

SkillLane and Conicle are two leading companies in the education technology industry which grew rapidly during the pandemic. Not only do these companies offer online classes to individuals in various subjects such as technology, finance, business and design, but they also reskill and upskill employees in many corporations.

In a collaboration with Thammasat University, SkillLane provides online MBA programmes in business innovation. Pitch Suebtavilkul, VP Strategy and Marketing of SkillLane, said the number of students at SkillLane has grown 40% in 2020 from the previous year while Nakorn Phuekphiphatmet, the CEO of Conicle, said Conicle grew almost 100%.

While computer and finance are popular classes at SkillLane, people go to Conicle for data, product management and self-development. Although both companies are online learning businesses, their executives believe that blending online and offline classes is more advantageous for learning. Nakorn said one advantage of online schooling is lecturers can use data of students to customise teaching methods to cater to each one.

"People are diverse. Lecturers should have digital platforms to collect data about students. The data should include strengths and weaknesses of students. Without a digital platform, lecturers will face difficulty in customising ways to enhance each student's skills," explained Nakorn.

Pitch said if there is no physical classroom, people will become more used to online learning.

"People will be forced to learn more about online learning technology. It will change the way people interact with one another online. During online classes, people currently do not try to get to know each other much. They prefer to communicate more when they meet physically. However, if they have to meet only online, they will communicate more via digital platforms," said Pitch.

With the present technology, Pitch said he could not visualise learning without physical classrooms because some courses involve hands-on activities that require learners to participate in a workshop or a lab. This is one of the limitations of the present technology that cannot provide immersive experiences that simulate hands-on learning.

Both executives agree that one weakness of online learning is lack of social interaction.

"People learn from working together. We probably forget what we learn in classrooms, but we remember how we argue with our friends when we work on our group projects. Interaction between people is what present technology cannot substitute," said Nakorn.

At SkillLane, they tried to compensate for this weakness by creating online learning communities.

"We have online communities where people can ask questions and discuss with their classmates and lecturers. The online communities are always open even though the courses have finished. Our online community for finance courses is very active. This year, people are interested in cryptocurrency and there is much discussion about it on the online community. A lecturer opened a session to address those questions. We do not provide only the platform. We also have activities and an admin to monitor the online communities," said Pitch.

Among several classes available online, UOB Money 101: Teen Edition launched by UOB Thailand is an attempt of online learning to build city sustainability. The UOB Money 101: Teen Edition is an online financial literacy programme aimed at equipping underprivileged students across the country with financial knowledge and skills to prepare them for the future. The programme, which is held jointly with the Thailand Collaboration for Education (TCFE), will help 1,000 students in its first year. This initiative is a part of UOB My Digital Space, a multi-year education programme to bridge the digital gap for students from disadvantaged backgrounds across the region and to connect them to a world of digital learning opportunities.

Through a series of engagement activities and online interactions over three months, the programme will provide lower secondary-level students with a comprehensive understanding of the journey to financial wellness and critical money management principles. The programme will also introduce the students to the concepts of budgeting and goal setting, enabling them to start financial planning early and to set their financial goals, no matter how big or small.

Sanchai Apisaksirikul, managing director, country head of Finance and Corporate Real Estate Services, UOB Thailand, said: "The UOB Money 101: Teen Edition programme exemplifies the bank's long-term commitment to fostering social well-being for a more inclusive society. Being financially literate is an important life skill for sustaining financial security, particularly during times of uncertainty such as that brought on by the impact of Covid-19. We hope that with the financial knowledge they gain and habits they develop at a young age, these students will be able to manage their finances more successfully throughout their life."

Due to threat of the pandemic, the idea of building sustainable cities has become a trend and online learning is considered an integral part of it.

"We believe in personalised learning. In order to develop skills and knowledge, teaching methods must be customised to be appropriate for each person. We work with many corporations that believe in reskilling their employees. Continuous learning will enhance quality of life and become lifelong learning for sustainable development," said Nakorn.

"People are a key factor in the ecosystem. Good education is a part of building good people and good people will build sustainable cities. Because of modern technology, information is changing rapidly. Digital learning is an essential method to help people to update their knowledge and keep up with a fast-changing world," said Pitch.

While some people believe in borderless learning and have a lifelong learning attitude, some still do not care about enhancing their knowledge via online. The executives explained that Thai people have images of boring classroom lectures which focus on theories.

"Online learning should provide short and easy content that can be utilised after learning. To encourage Thai people to become lifelong learners via online, state education agencies must introduce both online and offline classes to students from a young age. Hence, the students will be used to learning online. Higher level education establishments, like universities, should also create more online classes," said Pitch.

Building Sustainable Cities is a 13-part series that explores essential elements & insights on how individuals and businesses can take action to forge a cleaner, greener tomorrow in collaboration with UOB Thailand. You can view the whole series here

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