Great education in the future will seamlessly bring together online and off-line experiences.

Online education is not merely a temporary adaptation to the contingencies of a pandemic-wracked world. After navigating an involuntary crash course in online learning, educational institutions are now recognizing that they will eventually deploy these strategies alongside off-line experiences in the Post-COVID future. They are finding that these two modalities are complementary: each one fill gaps for the other. Thus, the coronavirus holds the promise of elevating the impact of educational institutions in the future.When Israel first entered lockdown, Masa Israel Journey, founded by the Jewish Agency and government of Israel, faced the challenge of shifting our offerings online. This was particularly complicated for us since we design dynamic and experimental educational experiences that rely heavily on firsthand encounters with Israel’s people, places and institutions.

Once the Health Ministry allowed gatherings of 50 people in open spaces, we decided to hold our Shavuot Festival. It was our first in-person event in several months. Some 250 fellows came together at six different educational meetups for thoughtful discussions about farewells and new beginnings, inspired by the themes of the Book of Ruth. In these personal and intimate settings, participants were able to not only hear, but truly listen to diverse speakers representing Israel’s rich cultural landscape. Computers do not replace the value of physically experiencing the people and places around us.The key to success in our shifting world is to create systems in which online and off-line experiences are integrated, and it is easy to pivot in between them. Emerging from the initial pandemic wave, we’ve now focused on proactively designing versatile programming for a sliding scale of online/off-line engagement.

Thousands of participants are now entering Israel, and this year’s cohort of Masa Israel Teaching fellows, for example, will have access to online content that delves into subjects related to the core concepts of their program: Israel’s culture, educational system and diverse communities.At the end of their mandatory quarantine, they will convene for an in-person conference (designed in accordance with the Health Ministry’s safety restrictions and guidelines) to reflect on the lessons and growth from their time in physical isolation. Rather than feeling a need to compensate for lost time, they will be more informed and prepared for their off-line experiences in ways not available within the walls of a classroom.This pandemic will leave us all with valuable insight about the relationship between online and off-line learning. Forward-thinking educational models can take advantage of the benefits of each, as well as the unique synergy of their combination.The immediate future is uncertain, but harnessing both online and off-line capabilities gives us the flexibility to offer seamless, rich educational experiences in any situation, deepen the impact of our live programs with complementary materials, and create a more engaged community around the world.The writer is the education R&D manager of the Masa Leadership & Impact Center.

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