With lockdown imposed in every other country globally, the online mode of education, popularly known as the Online classes has gathered pace. But, is it as effective as the offline face to face mode?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, right? With the onset of the global pandemic, and with almost every national government ruling out the norms of social distancing and keeping the public in a lockdown; the education sector has received a hard hit. Especially for schools and college-level education. They are now resorting to Online Classes, to make sure that the study doesn’t suffer hindrance. In this method of madness, let us not forget that this exercise indeed becomes futile, when looking at the macrocosm of our society.
Online portals like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet are among the few communication apps that make online Classes available to students. Users vary from teaching staff to the students, to people engaged in business conference meetings, etc. But simply providing an alternative does not solve the problems associated with the online method of imparting education.
The accessibility factor
The internet is the 21st century’s biggest boon for us. But we should not forget the fact, that this internet also becomes a factor of privilege. Not everyone has equal, if not decent access to the internet. A lot of the teaching staff in prominent colleges report how the class attendance on e-classrooms accounts for not even 20% of the total strength of the class. “In many cases, it is only 10-12 students who appear for these classes, out a total of 40”, says a Professor in the city’s acclaimed university. “Another factor is that in between the students that attend it, only 2-3 are involved actively in the classroom sessions. With their mic and video cameras off, I feel like I am talking to myself on screen. With their phones right beside them, who knows how much attention they devote to the classes.”
Let us not forget that a lot of out-station students also come from the more underdeveloped parts of the nation, where net connectivity still proves to be a problem. For those who crave to function their lives on 2G, imagine how difficult it would be for them to operate the GB eating video calling applications. Moreover, online classes prove to be a better exercise in private schools. But in government-run schools, with students coming from economically weaker sections, with improper access to technology, conducting Online Classes become difficult.
Not everyone has a cordial atmosphere at home. For the ones who do, we should express our gratitude to our parents/guardians for having the understanding to prioritize education. But not everyone can be put into a big melting pot called “Generalisations”. Talking to the same professor, “my students personally complain about how they wish to attend more classes with me, but they cannot give complete attention to the college if the household chores line up.
I believe even the parents are having a hard time wrapping their heads around this concept.” Talking to a primary-school teacher, in the national capital, reveals that “I have to create a separate group to guide the parents on how to work the app. There is always a fuss over attendance as my students are confused and very new to this mode of education. Despite that, having more than thirty 11-year olds with me for an hour or two every day to teach them, I know the amount of time that gets wasted in adjusting the mic audio, the interruptions, the time it takes to settle them down. But there is nothing one can do about it, one just has to get on with it”, she says.
Classroom as an escape
Real, physical classrooms, the tangible with tainted walls and wooden desks. All of the above describes what we are all missing. Unlike for some of us, who are oblivious to the joy that a classroom provides, there are lots of children for whom the schools or colleges become a means to escape their daily reality. It becomes a way for them to escape from abusive parents or siblings, even if it is a matter of a couple of hours, break barriers of patriarchy. It becomes a way for them to socialize, explore a side of them that can never be up and about in the vicinity of their own homes.
Besides, classroom teaching enables the teachers as well to concentrate on every child, and try to give them individual attention. This is an issue that online classrooms face, especially in India. Classrooms become a ray of hope, for the ones to guide them that education can help them change the course of their lives. That being in a physical classroom, motivates you to be well-prepped and things go on a particular schedule. There is a lack of motivation as the healthy competitive spirit in a regular class, seems to be missing.
An interaction with a house-wife residing in an affluent society in South Mumbai reveals that apart from the online classes, her children are registered for certain creative learning sessions undertaken by large international trusts and organizations that revolve around education. The creativity lessons help them to experiment with gardening, sustainable cooking, and innovative science, to keep them as a busy bee. This above instance (which is, of course, wonderful) gets restricted to a particular section of the society because not everyone has access to creating classrooms at home.
Not everyone has the resources to make online accounts and payments to such big portals. Not everyone has involved or even literate parents to be so engaged in the child’s education, despite their wishes. Because if a family struggles to even put a plate of food on the table at the end of the day, don’t you think the child’s creative lessons are a thought that may spark only in their long lost dreams.
India’s infrastructure in technology
One cannot be sure about how long this lockdown will continue. With the global scale of cases rising each day with soaring heights, one needs to understand that the online medium isn’t a temporary solution. It is something that will have to be implied for a longer period. Is India ready to shift into the paradigm of digital education? Can we manifest our teaching resources in the online method?
(P.S. it is not to be confused with online coaching or start-ups. We are talking of real-time transmission of education)
In a survey undertaken by QS I Guage, points out how the technological infrastructure of India has not achieved the state of quality to ensure sound delivery of e-lectures across the country. Both, the state and the private players have not yet managed to overcome the technical challenges. Apart from the survey, many apps like Zoom have started posing problems regarding the user’s personal information. (A couple of cases reported in India and worldwide, show how the application leaks the user’s information to hackers).
Users in metropolitan cities have reported that the internet proves to be a big hindrance towards the successful implementation of a shift in activities from face to face, to the online mode. If this is the situation in metropolitans, one can only imagine how it goes down in small cities and rural areas of the country. A lot of parents and teachers who aren’t that technologically savvy face some issues with the running of the application.
A minute analysis and solution on a larger scale will take an extremely long time to be worked upon. Online learning knowingly or unknowingly does become an exclusionist in its approach to education. More than that, it has encouraged the amount of time that we are giving to gadgets and gizmos.
Arpit Garg, a Delhi-based student, is also a self-sustained educator. He wishes to invest and help the underprivileged as much as possible, as he believes that“education is a necessity, but the medium is a choice. Digital or not digital, learning is something that shouldn’t be confined to likes or resources. As an underprivileged about it!”.
COVID-19 has become a period of deep human grieving and in some ways, our entrapment from our natural habitat. One needs to take it with a pinch of salt, that this pandemic will last for long, but one also needs to realize that amidst the complaining, let’s not forget that we are a lucky bunch. We can stay in our homes, safe and healthy. And in those moments, it becomes pivotal to thank our health-workers and the government for the actions they have taken.