Online Learning.


The year 2020 has cast a dark shadow over the country’s entire education system and left the fate of millions of students on the line. What we all thought was a pandemic phase to go through until better days come are turning into more difficult times now. During the winters there was a short break which allowed for offline exams. After the second growing wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 cases reached record levels across the country, schools and colleges were once again closed. The students are now at home with their cell phones, laptops and computers. After a year of trial and error, reforms and innovative e-learning experiences have been carried out for students and teachers. This year it looks better with 4G speed which can guarantee better learning quality. Online education, already the norm in many countries around the world, offers immense potential for the overall growth of students.

The Covid-19 pandemic has helped teachers familiarize themselves with e-learning techniques. However, in the modern world of technology, teachers need to know more about technology for students to maximize their learning. I have been connected with academics and tech experts for over 2.5 decades. In my experience, the best and easiest way to teach online is to conduct synchronous live lessons using a whiteboard or presentation and share those conferences in the WhatsApp group. This is because we have infrastructure problems in our institutions. Live lectures are not that different from offline lectures and students can ask questions to satisfy themselves. A 15 minute video conference in MP4 format is converted to just 20MB, which can be further reduced by using online video compressors. I don’t support teachers who share notes or other pre-prepared material in the Google classroom and drop a few lines for students who expect them to read it and throw up again. You should design short lectures of 10 to 15 minutes and students should write down the key points for study later. In addition to the regular online courses, there are high quality lectures and other material that a student can use on the internet that in my opinion are far superior to the electronic content we are talking about. Taking online courses is serious business and it is the responsibility of teachers to ensure that the majority of students take these courses.
Every natural calamity has always struck those most in need and Covid-19 is no exception. We simply forget the invisible: the poor and the marginalized. While interacting with students over the past few months, many of them have asked me how we can take online classes if we don’t allow ourselves to have cell phones. In fact, there are a large number of less well-known disadvantaged students in our school system. This inaccessibility of digital infrastructure and the loss of academic learning worsen the learning gap. Even viewing online courses as an emergency measure and claiming that ‘something is better than nothing’ when it violates the principle of equal opportunity will place a large proportion of students at a greater disadvantage. Students from disadvantaged families who do not have access to technology to study online may drop out of school, violating the fundamental right to education. At the institutional level, state-level mechanisms will be put in place through government agencies, NGOs, civil society, etc., and devices such as cell phones will be available for those who cannot pay them through donations, grants and other programs. Setting up a board-based communication link as a TV channel for online courses only would be a more practical idea to help these disadvantaged students on a large scale.
While online education is helpful in situations like the pandemic, it does not provide a healthy educational experience. Education is not just about providing information or content to students through screens and all tests and grades. It is a holistic experience to grow up in a system of camaraderie and learn things that the virtual medium cannot offer. An old African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” shows the importance of social and community interaction for a child’s growth. The assimilation of technology to the system has revolutionized education around the world. To cope with a situation like the pandemic, full online education needs massive, ubiquitous and revolutionary infrastructure development, including changing the hearts, souls and minds of students and teachers. It is also time for us to talk about resuming studies in our facilities by making campus safe places. We need to prepare action plans to create a safe environment for students so that we do not have to close schools. It’s not just about online learning, it’s also about students who have lost their education due to the pandemic. Education is the pillar of building a society. We cannot survive without education and so we cannot ignore its importance.

Finally, I advise students to learn by themselves too. The nice thing about self-paced study is that once you start a task, you think outside the box and learn things out of natural curiosity. It will improve your understanding and equip you with invaluable skills. This is perhaps the main reason self-taught people succeed in real-world situations. Discover the biographies of great people. They learned from books and never stopped learning. In today’s digital world, there is an enormous amount of information around us and it is very easy to learn it on your own. Instead of complaining and doing nothing, students should get out of their comfort zone, focus on studying, do the exercises themselves and then review their progress. It is also important not to become dependent on screens, watch out for physical exercises and games to avoid depression.

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