ONLINE EDUCATION: PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS
By: Rayees Masroor
The deadly second wave of the corona virus and the prolonged lockdown has resulted in the closure of school, college and universities which has sowed the seed of anxiety and uncertainty among the students, guardians, teachers and the government authorities. To keep students education on track seems to be the mammoth task for the stakeholders. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the education sector globally as the number of cases continues to rise, there is no certainty about when and how the normalcy will be restored. This has encouraged some sort of a permanent tilt towards online education.
The new National Education Policy (NEP-2020) also talks about being ready for digital and online education. As we move forward, the online learning and education is going to gain more space but at the same time we need to be cautious about the key challenges that it brings along. One of the big challenges comes from a digital divide which can have a negative impact on the whole process as National Statistical Office (NSO) survey 2017-2018 has highlighted and warned against a sudden push towards online education in India as there is always a risk of excluding a significant number of students.
Three-fourths of students in India do not have access to the internet at home, according to the NSO survey while the share of those who did not have computers, laptops, palm-tops and tablets, was much greater (89%). Even at the higher levels, a large share of students did not have these facilities available. In fact the access to the internet and computers is directly related to the economic status. The mobile phones can be used to listening online lectures or accessing the study material but it is not convenient for writing assignments or exams.
The online system of education or the E-learning also poses a challenge in terms of adaptability as both the students and the teachers are not used to this platform, even the parents and the authorities were not prepared to make a shift towards the online learning this fast. Imparting education through online and digital platforms also needs sound technical skills and sophisticated gadgets which often becomes a hurdle for a large portion of the student community as well as the trainers and teachers. Computer knowledge and time management is also an issue because a good number of teachers still lack computer knowledge which limits their ability to impart online education while time management, concentration and self motivation is not an easy thing when you are used to physical classrooms and have developed interests, habits and hobbies in that system.
Without foreseeing the prospects of online education, teachers have not been trained for the same. Besides this, it is not necessary that a good classroom teacher will be a good teacher in the online classroom system as well. There are a limited number of resources available to conduct an online examination in India and many subjects and courses such as science and performing arts cannot be taught in the digital education space.
Despite all these challenges, the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has stressed on the growing need of online education in India as the whole world is going through a pandemic and the subsequent lockdown making it imperative that we have some alternative mode of education. Adjusting to an online learning model could be a challenge at first, but once you adapt to the format, there are numerous benefits to be realized. Regardless of the reason you choose to pursue online education, learning through online mode can better prepare you for career advancement in a globalized world. The (NEP) 2020 is designed to maximise the benefits of digital and online education in India while mitigating the downsides.
The new education policy has come with some initiatives comprising Pilot studies and installation of virtual labs to reshape the system of education in India and some of the key initiatives listed include the development of well designed and structured online Teaching Tools and Methods,Teachers training, digital infrastructure, virtual labs, tele-classes , courses and available of study material in various regional languages. It also emphasizes the online assessment and examination and development of digital repository, content creation and dissemination. Looking at the future regardless of the challenges on its way- Online Education seems to be the New Normal.
It may not be possible, or even feasible, to make a wholesale shift towards the digital platforms or E learning but it comes up with many advantages to the students and the educators alike as it offers teachers an efficient way to deliver lessons to the students through many tools such as videos, PDFs and podcasts etc. By extending the lesson plan beyond traditional textbooks to include online resources, teachers can become more efficient educators while as this system allows students to attend classes from any location of their choice. The educational institutions can reach out to a more extensive network of students, instead of being restricted by geographical boundaries. The videos or the lectures can be recorded, archived, and shared for future reference as well. This allows students to access the learning material at any convenient time. Online education is far more affordable as compared to physical learning as it eliminates the cost of transportation, student meals etc. There is hardly any need of printing which makes it more convenient and creates a paperless environment and provides scope for a variety of teaching and learning styles with a wide range of options and resources besides it also adds the possibility of improved attendance of students because a location of choice.