Challenge and Change: It’s an Opportunity July 27, 2020 by Rob Luce, Vice President, SME Education Foundation In the wake of coronavirus, school closings and “stay-at-home” mandates have upended the educational experience for students across the country. Statistics show that, while some regions show improvement in managing the impact of COVID-19, we’re far from seeing its eradication. The resulting economic impact, massive and debilitating for so many, has hit education especially hard. The very idea of a “normal” learning environment has been redefined, suddenly and forcefully. There is, however, the proverbial silver lining. This singular moment reinforces the opportunities that exist for innovation in education via technology adoption. Online education, or remote learning, is one such opportunity. While this approach has been available (and indeed employed) for years, the pandemic has underscored the need for greater access to and utilization of online learning platforms to optimize the blended learning experience. The benefits, even in “normal” times, are significant: students can work and learn at their own pace; often at the time most convenient to them. In abnormal times like we’re experiencing now, online learning becomes the lifeblood of the educational system. My own personal experience has been eye-opening. Had my children’s school not employed the technology it did, the last three months of the school year would’ve been disastrous. The platform provided to us not only offered instruction and assessment but, most importantly for me as a parent, progress tracking. I often wondered how many schools were able to offer the same necessary services. As it relates to the SME Education Foundation, online education is certainly relevant to the work we do with our SME PRIME program. All PRIME curriculum plans are designed in partnership with Tooling U-SME, a national leader in manufacturing education, and stocked with hundreds of Tooling U-SME online classes. While the hands-on component of education can never be replaced, it’s refreshing to know that SME PRIME students had industry-driven relevant resources available to them while stuck at home. The best of our achievements, whether personal or professional, are always a result of collaboration. Educators, government and parents must embrace and make the changes necessary to ensure greater access to online learning platforms. Using technology as part of the education process such as online learning can and should be a part of every child’s development, in normal times or otherwise.