Covid-19 has made far-reaching impacts on our socio-economic lives. It is not just the health and economic sectors that have suffered the most; the education sector is also hit hard by the pandemic. The lockdowns necessitated the closure of educational institutes around the world, rendering education and learning suspended. As per one estimate, nearly 1.2 billion children are out of schools across the globe. If it were not for online education, these children would have no way to continue their educational pursuits.
Online education before the pandemic:
Even before the pandemic hit us, online education was going reasonably strong. Educational institutes were adopting online education and promoting it side by side with their regular teaching sessions. Its overall market was projected to reach US$350 billion globally, and in 2019, investment in online education reached US$18.66 billion. There were edtech startups spearheaded by governments, NGOs, big corporations, and universities. But despite all these, online education was considered something for part-time students who were doing day jobs, adults sitting in homes looking for some light educational activity, etc. But the pandemic brought online education into the limelight like never before, and it has attained new heights of popularity and significance since last year.
A need of the current times:
When cities and towns across the world had to shut down everything to prevent the spread of Covid-19, nobody had anticipated it would last so long and on such a magnitude. As the lockdowns lingered, educational institutes were left with no choice but to resort to e-teaching methods. It was the only way the academic years and semesters of millions of students could be saved who were at stake due to the pandemic. It meant changing the system and making it friendlier and friendlier towards e-learning. Many universities rushed to digitalize their entire educational set up to facilitate students. Now the strength of an educational institute is judged by the efficacy of its online educational system. Even those who were earlier reluctant to adopt the online education system had to give in and jump on the bandwagon. The traditional classroom sessions are still going to be a far cry. The threat of the Coronavirus is very much prevalent even now, what with the new mutations of the virus emerging from different countries. We cannot revert to the pre-Corona days fully unless half of the world’s population successfully gets vaccinated. Since this will take a while, we better adopt new ways of doing things.
“The new normal”?
Many teachers and educational experts opine that online education has arrived in a big way, and it is here to stay. Students have also adapted to this new model of education and have started enjoying it too. Studies show that students can retain 25-60% more of what they are taught in a virtual session than an in-person classroom session. They are also able to learn faster using e-learning tools. The study concludes that they take 40-60% less time to learn than traditional classroom setup. Today, children are at ease using gadgets like laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc. They can also pause, rewind, or fast forward the recorded lecture at their convenience. It enhances their learning. There is no doubt the online educational model offers certain unbeatable advantages over the traditional model. You can reach out to anyone anywhere in the world. You can lecture hundreds of people spread around the globe through e-teaching. It is also cost-effective than a traditional classroom setup. The students can learn at their own pace when they feel like and wherever they feel like. The flexibility that an online education system offers is just not possible by the traditional educational system. Therefore, it will remain relevant even when the pandemic is over.
Challenges in online learning:
For all its advantages, online education is not without its fair share of challenges and limitations. It being a technology-dependent mode of education, so it requires everyone involved with equal access to technology. It might be problematic for students coming from less-privileged backgrounds. A reliable internet connection is also mandatory for online education; this might be missing in rural or less developed countries. Competing interests are another challenge for online education as students and their parents struggle to access the internet and the laptop for their respective works. Sometimes, the online system is having trouble. Students might find it challenging to log in, download, or listen or watch properly. There are other non-technology-related issues associated with online learning too. Students might find it boring and dull, especially when the session is not interactive. It may not be possible for the teacher to give personal attention to every student; the practical learning aspect is difficult to enact in an online environment.
Overcoming challenges in online learning:
For every problem, there is a solution. While it may not be practical to provide a laptop to every student, time management is the key here. Parents need to sort out the screen time they need and allocate time slots for all the family members. The technical issues can be addressed by having a thorough check before any live session and having a plan B ready for deployment. The session itself should be made engaging, interactive, and inviting by the teacher. He should keep the students’ interests alive by asking them to participate in the proceedings and having their input. The need is to humanize the process and emotionally connect with the students. They should have the feeling of a lively classroom session in an online session too.
Technology has made inroads into our lives, and online learning is an offshoot of that technology. We need to embrace this new learning model for our children and facilitate them in their academic pursuits. While there will be hiccups along the way, we should all work together to ensure that our children make the most of this opportunity and their online learning is both fun and educational.