Education is going through a paradigm shift: a shift from formal education rooted in face-to-face classroom learning to one based on digital technology. In an attempt to adopt online teaching and to acquire the necessary skills to deal with the virtual classroom, the management, teachers, parents and students have to grapple with many new challenges.
There are many debates across the world on the implications: merits and disadvantages of the new mode of education. As of now we have no clue as to when the schools and colleges will re-open and students would be able to return to classrooms. Whether we like it or not, at the moment there are no other alternatives than e-learning.
There are obvious benefits to e-learning: reduced costs, great flexibility for the students, and the ability to train thousands of people all over the globe at the same time. Many students admit that learning is fun and is without the inertia and passivity of classroom courses. Students vouch that some classes are leisurely, interesting and interactive. They also admit that they are in a totally new environment where they miss the teachers, classmates and their space in the school.
When asked about the experience of online learning a Class X student from Meghalaya told me: “The classes as a whole are really helpful and fun. In fact, we are doing more activities in a relaxed way, since we are also enjoying the comfort and company of parents at this time. The efforts made by the teachers to keep us on track even during the present circumstances is really commendable. The video links shared by them are very interesting and enable us to learn through audio-visual aids. But we really miss being in the school together with friends and teachers. Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to the school environment soon.”
E-learning is not without its own problems. Online education cannot claim to provide a level playing field for all since many students have no access to internet. Not all teachers are adequately trained and equipped to adopt technology and use it well. They need new skills and competence to be able to migrate from teaching in a classroom with chalk and board, and pupils physically present to the digital platform.
The level of preparedness to face the new reality of online education varies from country to country and institution to institution. The issues involve infrastructure, teacher competence, student preparedness, availability of technology, particularly internet. Technology can provide a level playing field, but the reality is that there exists huge gaps of social inequality and digital divide. Strenuous efforts must be made to provide access and opportunity, reduce the gap and mitigate the problems.
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