Online Education: Covid-19 perspective

Introduction

Education’s purpose is to replace empty mind with an open one.

At the beginning of this year almost every country got hit by the ongoing pandemic of Covid-19. It created havoc as its fatality rate is between 2-3 percent. It has been declared as the pandemic by the world health organisation and lockdowns were imposed in almost all the countries around the globe to prevent the contagion further. The priority of the governments is just to save the lives of the people from this infectious disease by imposing lockdowns and social distancing. One side where this virus adversely affected daily lives, on other side, it also opined with new scope for emergence of many new opportunities. Government is taking every possible step which is necessary to neutralize the effect of Covid-19. State is trying to provide citizens especially poor and marginalized to fulfil their basic requirements- food, shelter, medical facilities, etc. Many Yojanas, schemes, and policies were launched on this regard. But the basic need to get educated still remains unfulfilled. Pandemic has its worst effect on the education sector. Students are suddenly shifted to virtual classroom from face-to-face learning.

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON EDUCATION

Lockdown was imposed in third week of march, 2020. All educational institutions were declared to be closed by the government this is how the life of students came to halt. And still feezed from eight months. All classes, seminars and other activities were cancelled students were not allowed to visit the institute even for giving viva, submitting thesis, projects, assignments and for any other administrative purposes. The educational institutes’ premise is the most vulnerable place for the spread of this disease as the students gather in mass number. Unless the disease is totally eradicated from the country, it is difficult task to bring students back to school or colleges. After lockdown firstly the educational sector got completely frozen later on after the continuance of lockdown for few months and the worsening effect of the pandemic, the institutes and the governments decided to resume the education Actor through virtual-teaching as an alternative of classroom learning through various platform like Google-meet, zoom etc.

Globally, the Indian Education sector is amongst the largest, with an extensive network of more than 1.4 million schools and 993 Universities, 39931 Colleges, and 10725 Stand Alone Institutions listed on the AISHE web portal. As the Indian education system was mostly based on the offline system and classes. Most of the primary and secondary schooling sector was all based on offline education system has to opt the online classes for empowering the education and for the benefits of the students. Many schools within the country have switched to online classes due to the lockdown, but one in four students is unable to attach because they don’t have a laptop, desktop, or tablet, consistent with a survey by economic times.

It has resulted in complete change of educating pattern as previously everything is under the control of the teachers, who will enter the class who will leave the classroom while in online classes the control has shifted to the student’s hand to enter the classroom and to leave it. The interactive and connective learning has just faded completely sometimes due to technological interference and other times due to inability to read each other’s gestures and expressions. The online platform has just become people sitting together in silence like a mass of icons and windows. the teachers’ body language, which is a part and parcel of the classroom lectures and is imperative for their success, is also missing in online classes. The use of technology will not only lead to more discrimination, but also will create some practical problems. It will also lack the desired interaction in the class. Many schools in urban areas are having online classes, while the majority of rural schools do not. Very young children are not able to learn through online processes as they can neither handle computers nor mobile phones. In many households, there is no computer, and in many, children are not allowed smartphones as well. Both these problems exist regardless of class. The digital divide at the school level leads to a gap between the haves and have-nots.

The strain caused by this pandemic will have long-term effects, but how this will affect the higher education system is unpredictable right now. There is some evidence that domestic violence has increased, and there may be some effects on students’ education, especially if families will break-up as a result increased domestic violence during this lockdown. In any case, the resulting economic changes are sure to affect the higher education system indirectly. When the lockdown lifts, many parents might compel their kids to drop out to help support the family financially. Smaller schools around the country might shut down permanently. School owners will be forced to downsize and renegotiate rentals since this looks like a washout year. Petitions and PILs against schools under these circumstances keep adding to their woes.

Examinations have either been postponed or cancelled. Cancelling intermediate semesters or class annual exams or Class XI board exams will only weaken the foundations of the students and the students studying in the intermediate semesters of professional courses will have to give examination of current and previous semester just after opening of college campuses. This will also result in mental pressure and depression of students. Online examinations are not possible at this time given the existing infrastructure in the country, already cancelling the exams kills the impetus of learning. The authorities could have waited for the lockdown to end before announcing such a drastic decision.

CHALLENGES IN ACCESS TO ONLINE EDUCATION

  1. Challenges in Online Learning –

The online learning platform is different from face-to-face learning as it is deficient in various ways like there is lack of human connection, absence of opportunities for hands on learning in complex subjects like maths and science, teacher supervision. Besides, amid the rush of hosting online classes the best teaching practices such addressing learners Multiples Intelligences (MI), VARK Learning Styles and providing a differentiated learning experience have been relegated to the backburner. The head of a school address the challenges of quality learning in online mode and is it possible to harness technology to provide a rich, immersive and holistic learning experience to the students.During this pandemic, when we are adapting to the ‘new normal’ way of learning, many of the street children have not even reached the preliminary doorstep of education. Efforts should be taken to trace them and bring them to the midstream of the society, as we might be losing a ‘Gem’ who could change the world.

  • Quality On-line Learning

Quality education has undergone a metamorphosis in the online mode, and now it includes the ICT components that help overcome all the challenges have resulted due to the physical distance between the teacher and the learner. ICT has the power and potential to help the users overcome not only these challenges but also make some unexpected value additions to classes that could result in an improved teacher and learner performance, leading to an enhanced learning experience. Here are some ICT integrated teaching-learning strategies that can ‘up the quality’ quotient of an online class.

  • Plan Active Learning –

It has been observed that sometimes to overcome the lack of their physical presence teachers go into long winding explanations of the concept in an online class, leaving learners passive, bored, and ultimately distracted. The online class should have a well-planned sequence of activities for ‘active engagement’ that allows the leaners of opportunities for interaction and hand-on, experiential learning. The following strategies would help in creating opportunities for active learner engagement with content and peers.

  • Use IT Tools, Apps & Resources –

In lockdown bringing the education system online was the 1st step took by many universities/colleges/schools but Internet connectivity is one of the major problems faced by education bodies and students. According to the 2017-’18 National Sample Survey report on education, only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility. While 66% of India’s population lives in villages, only a little over 15% of rural households have access to internet services. For urban households, the proportion is 42%[4]. According to Telecom Economic Times, India report by the survey with over 7,600 respondents found that to use the internet at home, 72.60 % of the respondents use mobile hotspot, 15% pc usage broadband, 9.68% pc use WiFi dongle and 1.85% pc have poor to no internet connectivity.

While a computer would be preferable for online classes, a smartphone could also serve the purpose. However, the phone could be convenient for apps, but not for completing lengthy assignments or research. While 77% of Indians own a smartphone [2019], only 11% of households possess any type of computer, which could include desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, palmtops, or tablets.

Ormrod Jeanne Ellis, professor of educational psychology at the University of Northern Colorado, talks of four basic learning needs that form the basis of all major educational theories ranging from behaviourism to social cognitivism to constructivism. These are Arousal, Competence, Self-determination and Relatedness. (Ormrod, 2011). He says through gamification and technology a teacher can successfully meet most of these needs in an online class. Technology is a huge enabler, as it can be used to customise learning to learners’ level, interest, and academic and social needs. Rich texts, images, videos, audios, and games bring fun, excitement, collaboration, and challenge to learning. The learners, being digital natives, view online classes as ‘edutainment than education’ and continually set new learning goals for themselves.  It also allows learners to learn at their own pace, revisiting the lesson as many times as they wish before moving on to the next stage. For instance, students with disabilities have found it extremely difficult to access remote learning through digital platforms. The UNESCO’s 2019 State of the education report of India acknowledges that inclusive education is complex to implement and requires a fine understanding of the diverse needs of children and their families across different contexts. India has made considerable progress in terms of putting in place a robust legal frame work and a range of programmes that have improved enrolment rates of children with disabilities in schools. However further measures are needed to ensure quality education for every child to achieve the targets of agenda 2030 and more specifically the objectives of the sustainable development goal 4.

Globally UNESCO joined its partner in the Global action on disability (GLAD) network to raise awareness about the need to put in place strategies to mitigate the impact of school closures on learners with disabilities. The implementation of the ground breaking national education policy 2020 provides a historic opportunity to utilise the immense potential.

In today’s milieu, net access is critical, considering that even where mobile phones and laptops are available- some states provide them under student welfare programmes – they cannot be meaningfully used in the absence. If net connectivity is 5% to 10% in rural Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and west Bengal, only a slim minority can hope to do any academic work. Many remote locations have reliability problems and power deficits, making it a challenge to keep gadgets operational even offline. Some teachers may thrive in this new world, but the majority of the teachers will need to upgrade not only their technical skills but also their teaching resources, in most cases, it will just not be feasible. Many institutions did not have trained teachers who can work remotely through online platforms and face a struggle to accept the transition. Old aged teachers who are not technically sound to do online teaching.

  • Give Learners a Choice –

Traditional classes are teacher-driven and all the decisions regarding what, when, how, and how much are taken by the teacher. In an online class, the teacher can enhance learner motivation, interest, and involvement by allowing them to choose ‘how to learn’. The choice of activities can range from audio/video podcasts, presentations, surveys, investigatory projects, quizzes, gamification, reports with illustrations and graphics, news-reporting, producing a radio/TV show, etc. Depending upon the skills and subskills that need to be taught or reinforced the learners could be asked to choose and collaborate on the assignment. Many times, students deliberately create indiscipline by playing music, making noise, posting bad comments through fake users, eating and playing games in different windows. Teaching in the home environment setting was reported as exhausting and demotivating experience by the teachers.

  • Feedback Vs Feed-forward technique –

Feedback gives suggestions to improve the observed processes, in retrospect, by telling learners how they can improve the assignment that has been concluded. Research reveals that students hardly revisit their assignments to check teachers’ suggestions and comments. Feed-forward model is future-focused and inculcates ideas about what a learner or teacher can do differently with the assignment on hand. Teachers share the assessment criteria and inform learners of what is expected and subsequently mark them accordingly. A valuable outcome of feed-forward technique is learners constantly reflect on their output and make self-assessment.  Feed-forward process would ensure better learning outcomes in the online mode, as the teaching time for a teacher is at a premium.

  • Guide Teacher Performance –

All schools are closed during the lockdown restrictions, relieving teachers of their sundry administrative duties and making them free to devote their undivided attention to creatively design their on-line learning plans. Awareness that classes are open to public and parental scrutiny has made the teachers conscious of delivering their best in online classes. Nevertheless, switching over to the online mode of teaching is a huge challenge for teachers. They have managed to imbibe a number of hard and soft skills to be able to do it successfully to date.  However, regular observation of their classes and constructive and timely feedback would definitely help them improve their skills. A good strategy would also be to ask them what they need to learn and to organise focused interventions to help meet their learning gaps.

CONCLUSION

The present pandemic will not only affect the economy adversely, but it will also affect the education sector adversely in India. Online classes are no substitutes for classroom lectures for a variety of reasons. The digital divide will only lead to discrimination and practical classes based on laboratories cannot be held online. Giving instructions for mathematical courses is also difficult online. The interaction between the teachers and the students is a crucial component of teaching and cannot be replicated in online classes. Research has been severely hampered due to the lockdown, and hence the sooner normalcy returns, the better

REFERENCES

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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