Script: PAYAL, Educationist
According to UNESCO, when the covid-19 outbreak happened, some 1.37 billion students in 138 countries were affected by school and university closures. Nearly 60.2 million school teachers and University lecturers were no longer in the classrooms. In India, however, teachers and students soon took to the “online classes” mode. Attending online classes everyday became the ‘new normal’ for Indian students during the lockdown. Online classes have taken the centre-stage in student’s life for academic continuity.
Online platforms were used for switching teaching mode from the offline system. Various learning applications (apps) enabled students to continue their education off-campus.It showed that there are different ways of doing things in future. In the early weeks of lockdown, many educational institutions were struggling to provide the same quality of teaching as they were unprepared for this switch. However, they soon overcame the obstacles. Online teaching enabled the students to acquire in-depth knowledge.
In this system, students have access to all relevant information at one platform. Electronic media holds out the possibility of on-demand access to content anytime, anywhere and on any digital device. Online teaching process allows students to learn at their own pace and without compromising on their other responsibilities. As students need not rush to school daily, they can study and learn in the cozy ambience of their homes. Students are observed to be more academic oriented as the study format includes more of mental activities as compared to physical activities. The studentscan submit their assignments online, any time before a set deadline. Students can also have one-on-one discussion with their teachers and communicate at ease.
A positive effect of online education is that students now have become tech-savvy. They got to know more about various apps and programmes. Their knowledge about computers and smartphones got enhanced. To bridge the gap, various stakeholders are making best efforts to help students. Many government and non-government institutions provided many apps and websites which have plenty of study material, not only for learning but for their assessment too. Some of the widely used apps and websites are ‘DIKSHA’the National Digital Infrastructure for teachers framed by Ministry of Education and National Council of Teacher’s Education (NCTE). This portal helps teachers to learn and create in-class resources, assessment-aids, etc.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had highlighted the importance of ‘Digital India’ and mentioned how India’s online classes have become a “culture” during the Covid-19 pandemic.“Online classes have become a culture during the Corona time. Digital transactions and online classes, are the ‘new normal’ now. This showed how the Indian people accepted the new normal,” the Prime Minister had said in his Independence Day speech on 15th August 2020.
Indian educational technology and online tutoring firms also became hugely successful. Indian interactive online tutoring platforms too came up, where teachers provide tuition to students over the internet using the real-time virtual learning environment. New apps allow teachers to transform their traditional printable worksheets into interactive online exercises with self-correction. Some other websites and appsallow teachers to give live assignments, allowing instant teaching adjustments and long-term student growth tracking. Many “EdTech” apps and websites like IIT Pal etc. provide new models as per the students’ requirement and are also convenient to use.
In contrast to these benefits, some challenges like long screen time, less attentiveness of students, less hands-on laboratory sessions, no field trips, interrupted power supply, weak or non-existent internet connectivity, unaffordability to buy necessary devices etc. were faced too. Most parents now are interested in online classes, even after the pandemic has ebbed; as it is benefiting their children. Also, children are under double supervision of their parents and teachers.
Leaders in education are calling on students to embrace online learning as thousands of learners can be accommodated in one lesson as they just need a computer, tablet or smartphone with an internet connection. Many government and non-government organizations have provided smartphones to underprivileged students to cope up with the ‘new normal’.
Online education has opened up lot of possibilities for students and teachers alike. Some experts have called it ‘an essential service’. It will surely provide a way for India becoming DIGITAL educationally!