Benefits and Challenges
Research Scholar, Shri Govind Guru University, Godhra (Gujarat)
The present paper focus on the requirement of online education for school students during the Coronavirus pandemic which has shut all schools in India. With the purpose to continue imparting education, the educators and teachers have been using e-learning approach to teach remotely on digital platforms as a source to bring the classroom to home. But it is important to highlight the challenges of online learning, how students without reliable internet access and technology struggle to participate in digital learning, whether the use of technology is proved less economical or it has improved the quality of the education and what are the impacts of online education on students. There are also few suggestions to overcome challenges of online education and the means to make online education a success in near future in the country like India.
The contemporary world is disturbed with the global outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The affected regions have been lockdown due to the threat of coronavirus which has spread across 191 countries. The virus has become more and more apparent that the whole world has been lockdown and this lockdown has caused severe disruption to the schools, colleges and universities with an estimation of 90% of the world’s learners, i.e., approximately 1.6 billion people, have been affected by the pandemic. India alone has 320 million learner.
The adverse impact have been noticed on the school students appearing for their board examinations as their exams for some papers are still pending. The Government of India with the States Government were determined to take a considerable decision of not conducting examinations for primary and secondary classes and mass promoting them to the next class. Some schools have begins the new academic year by delivering the education online to their students.
The current crisis has encouraged digital education throughout the world. In a very short span of time with the ongoing extension of lockdown, many schools, colleges, universities and coaching institutes all over the world are in a hasten to provide online education to their students so that they can continue their learning without much gap, once the crisis is over. However, in India, some school with better equipped digital tools have analysed their potentially to contribute of digital education. The schools have asked parents to establish ‘study from home’ environment and make sure that learning continues at home. Online education is an obvious way for school to keep educating their students at home.
WHAT IS ONLINE EDUCATION?
Online education can be defined as a flexible way of delivering instruction or conducting a kind of learning through the Internet. Online education provides educators with opportunities to teach students by communicating and disseminating the learning materials through the distance-learning mode. Online education, a result of the digital world has brought various approaches to educate and learn outside the classrooms and far from the school with a lot to the learning table at all levels of education, beginning from preschool up to higher level institutions. However, a few schools have creates their own online learning application for both educators and learners at a level to follow e-learning techniques. It incorporates online audio-video content, activities, virtual situation, live interaction with the educators, sharing of e-books, e-content, simulations, models, graphics, animations, quizzes, games and e-notes are making learning more accessible, engaging, and contextualized. Online education accompanies changes in curriculum, textbooks, teacher training, examination systems, pedagogy, and improvement in traditional education.
For the sake to pursue the education online, the students need to learn digital skills to access the content of e-learning. With online education, the quality of education improves and becomes more flexible for students to learn than in an ordinary classroom.
BENEFITS OF ONLINE EDUCATION:
In this digitised world, we had made no effort to bring in online classes, but today it has become a reality. A large part of India has not come across social media, but they are connected on the mobile.
· Computers or smartphones: Online education requires a computer or a smartphone which have proved to be the biggest learning tools in the present century. Students can used these tools with an internet connection so that can pursue education anywhere at any time.
· Methodology: Online education has replaced conventional teaching and learning methods in the school and lead to productive education through the digital educational system.
· Use of latest technology: In many school, new technologies such as augmented reality devices, virtual reality technology and others, are projected to enhance the classroom experience by filling the learning gaps in the classroom. The spontaneous nature of web-based learning makes it more powerful and superior than classroom-based learning.
· Improves digital literacy: Students who knows to utilize educational tools for learning online have a great deal of opportunities to learn new things and create a proper educational environment to improve digital literacy.
· Self-study: Students will get motivated to engage themselves to study themselves. They may have the choice to choose chapters, topics, and assignments for study. This will help them to select relevant content to prepare answers for the assignments. They also have opportunities to self-assess themselves.
· Interactive classroom: Interaction with students in live classes or communication in chat rooms. More interaction makes students feel free to ask their teacher if they have any doubts or questions regarding recent topics discussed or upcoming test. It is one of the best ways to create strong relationships with learners.
· Online learning platforms: With the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education, the remote learning is enabled by several online technological stack such as Google Meet, Google Classroom, Blackboard, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Teamlink for audio-video conferencing and e-learning applications like Byju's app for primary and secondary supplemental education. All these supplement to school learning play an important role in this transformation to online education.
· Encourage accountability: There are means to send automated emails to students who haven’t completed their assignments or who haven’t logged in or attended the classes for some days. Teachers make study groups to create a sense of accountability and periodically asks for feedback from the learners.
Regular students tend to contact and ask for help to drive success in lessons. A sense of accountability will be created when students know that their teachers are also logging in, reviewing materials, and responding to questions. This will make students to submit their assignments on time and be more engaged in group discussions.
CHALLENGES OF ONLINE EDUCATION:
As soon as the coronavirus crisis started taking grip in the country, all educational institutions announced to remain shut due to the students' safety. COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for distance learning since schools and colleges took the help of technology and started taking online classes so that the studies won't get affected.
In a report issued on 21 April, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), highlighted a concern about the shift in online education. While addressing a global perspective, UNESCO mentioned that half of the total number of learners, some approximately 826 million (82.6 crore) students are kept out of the classroom by the Covid-19 pandemic. The students don't have access to household computers and 43 percent (706 million or 70.6 crore) students have no internet at home, at a time when digital-based distance learning is used to ensure the educational continuity in the vast majority of countries.
In India also, many schools have always considered educational apps or digital learning as a supplementary tool that have allowed them to initiate imparting education online. They think that online education leads children to be more creative, future orientated, develop communication skills, and become more self-confidence. But the reality is that Indian students are not trained to be taught online as the majority of schools, probably more than 13,000 schools in many district, don’t have the ability to provide continuous virtual online instruction. Many students don’t own a smart phone, especially those from economically poor backgrounds and buying an Internet pack is a common problem. Moreover, the students often struggle to get a proper Internet connection.
There are many more challenges that students face while learning online, such as:
· Lack of computers or smartphones: Major concern of online education is the requirement of ICT tools like computers, laptops, smartphones or other gadgets. Many students lack computers, laptops, smartphones, assistive technologies or internet access – all essential tools for accessing online education. Sometimes their mobile phones may be old and not able to run sophisticated software.
· Poor Internet connectivity: There are some areas in India, especially rural areas, which have poor internet connectivity. Many students don't have high-speed internet at home, and school districts can’t provide the same online education to every student since not everyone has equal access to Internet.
· Limited data access: Learning online may consume more excessive internet data. Some students have low data plans, don't always have good access to WiFi, and they can't visit places where they could get good access to WiFi as they're told to avoid during lockdown.
· Expensive: The use of technology in education must be decreased because technology expenses are too high. However, many people state that technology education is friendlier for the students as it is less burden than education through paper books. But it is not so fruitful for students with poor background.
· Study from home: Home learning can be challenging for students. Parents do need to take a holistic approach for their children engaged in study from home. The process of home learning can make children feel isolating, especially those children who are not usually home schooled and are used to being surrounded by other children.
· Online classes not good for Preschool Kids: Online class is not such a good idea, especially for kids as they need not know how access to tablets or laptops and it demands parents to help them.
· Joint efforts of Parents and Teachers: In these unprecedented times, teachers and parents are putting their best effort toward to uphold the children with better education. Although some children are widely held to be more technology savvy than adults, there is always the exception. In the lower classes, teachers have to link up with the parents to ensure about their children whether education is continue or not. But in some case, uneducated parents can't take responsibility of their children's education and they may suffer.
· Problem faced by Teachers: Even teachers face many problems teaching online especially those who have no experience before as they are trained to teach in classrooms using the blackboard. They themselves struggle to get a hang of the technology. Teaching on a mobile phone gets very difficult as how to hold the phone while teaching and it may distract their concentration on the topic they are trying to teach.
Some schools want their teachers to make Powerpoint Presentations (PPTs), record video lectures, take online classes through different apps, but they do not offer any clear instructions as to how this should be done. The teachers require a couple of hours to gather and prepare brainstorms ideas and plans for their online classes over the Zoom or Teamlink app. During the online classes, they have no idea to assure that whether they are teaching in proper way or are the students paying attention.
· No active interaction: The students educated via digital schools lack face to face interactions which may lead the students to inability of expressing emotional nuances and social connection. Further, they may lack in social communication skills that are significant for them in their adulthood, and the extensive risk of depression and loneliness. Assessing assignment over a digital platform vastly varies from physical assessment.
· Lack of concentration: Reading books required intense concentration that improves imagination and memory power which digital education makes unnecessary, and paying attention becomes difficult. In this case, students become narrow minded and less creative.
· Problems with Disabled Students: Disabled students have difficulties in mainstreaming in online class. Students with partial visual disabilities are not able to access the study materials and the classes online. They need help from their family to read in order to complete their assignments. Further deaf students don’t have access to the online classes itself as there is no sign language interpreter during the video calls. These students mainly rely on transcripts or notes provided by their teachers.
· Homework gap: Poor students who are unable to access online learning lack behind in the classroom and when they will come back to the classes, they have to keep up with fast learning.
· Digital Divide: As the digital learning advances, it throws light on the digital divide in India. Students from remote districts and those belonging to poor communities lack the infrastructure and the means to acquire the benefits of online learning. The reality is that digital divide occurs long before the coronavirus.
· Distraction: Despite of the benefits of technologies, many critics proposed that using technology and technological devices cause distraction to learning. Most teachers would surely agree that most smartphones are pretty distracting as it can be reflected in the academic performance of the students.
· Near-sightedness: The online education leads students to engage in looking at the monitor screen continuously which cause near-sightedness, it has negative effects on the brain. The students need verbal as well as non-verbal interaction in order to ensure the brain development.
· Other Problems: Most researchers study on student’s academic performance are conducted on issues like communication, family stress, lack of proper guidance, learning facilities, socio-economic status of the student intake, psychological issues, personal issues, gender difference, rural or urban location, teacher’s education and teaching style, online classroom environment. These all issues are different in rural and urban areas.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING ONLINE EDUCATION SYSTEM:
However, during the coronavirus pandemic, the poor have more serious challenges to deal with such as looking for survival and it depends on the level of education.
· School systems must boost poor students to pursue online education by providing them with laptop and tablet supplies to equip students with their own device.
· Most of the e-learning platforms used by schools do not need sophisticated technology. So, the schools in the rural sector must be encouraged to conduct online classes using a simple mobile.
· However, poor internet connectivity is not an invincible challenge. The government has to ensure the expansion of the bandwidth in rural areas.
· The Government must encourages low-income families to sign up for free WiFi in order to offer education to the children.
· If parents are uneducated and aren't able to help their children with studies, then they must be encouraged to study in a system of peer group learning.
· Online learning requires students to be highly self-motivated and have strong time management skills.
· Students must avoid distractions while studying online. They must come out of their comfort zone, and engage in better interaction between teachers and students.
Our education system is going to be digital in the foreseeable future and with the right infrastructure and policies in place, we must be better prepared to handle it.
To sum up, COVID-19 pandemic has made a global impact in the past weeks and continues to impact the education sector being one of the most affected ones. However, online learning has helped students to focus on ideas of learning through internet that has changed the necessary angle with more extensive scene of advanced education. The numerous online learning opportunities are of good use to the students to enhance their skills in this lockdown period. It has quickly and efficiently filled the gap created by suspended classroom learning. But, the sudden, forced immersion of students into virtual learning across India, has proved that the education industry is disrupted. Online education has challenged students and their parents with connectivity problems, limited data access, power blackouts and expensive devices to access the classes online. Of course, students are trying to learn with the help of already available e-learning platforms and tools yet online education demand them to be more upgrade with technology.
Thus, Covid-19 lockdown will surely end someday. However, the stresses and scars of sudden lockdown will remind India’s school students, their parents and teachers about their own coronavirus battle for a long time to come.
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Received on 03.06.2020 Modified on 27.06.2020
Accepted on 19.07.2020 ©AandV Publications All right reserved