Online Education In India: A Shimmering Hope Or A Looming Doom
Hello, my dear friend! Welcome to the digital world. It is 2021, and we have entered the second wave of the ongoing COVID pandemic, already. The Pandemic has hit almost all sectors badly, but it has severely impacted education. Institutes are closed, schools and colleges have not been reopened since March. So, we talk about online education today in this article.
We have not met our teachers and mentors for almost a year now. Our traditional resources are bygones, and we are falling short of understanding the future of education. So, what is the future of education? The answer is here, with all of us: Online education.
While many consider online education, a boon to students across the globe, it is time to rather analyze, whether this mode of imparting education truly hits the right chords. While the ongoing global pandemic COVID-19 revolutionized the entire learning process in a rather short period, it had left many learners confused. And the educators are baffled.
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The Indian government also encouraged some options to avail. Also, most well-to-do private institutes have made this switch quite smoothly by using platforms like Zoom, Google meet- to name a few, but at the same time, comparatively low-scaled institutes are suffering badly.
Today, you must have observed that the most frequently used term is the new normal, which ideally relates to online learning or the digital platform in the field of education. This has tremendously amplified the use of online learning tools.
Globally, there are around 6 million students, who are using online learning for their ongoing curriculum of studies. And statistically, over 50 percent of universities are offering their premium courses online, so that maximum people can avail themselves and participate in their courses and degrees.
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Indeed, online learning has a variety of options to choose from- for an audience of every group and caters to providing easy access to uncommon topics, wider reach, and inculcate interest as well.
Most of the educational institutes welcomed this entirely new way of education by adopting new methods. Online learning is not extended only towards academics, but it also has its application in many extra-curricular activities for students. The demand for online education has increased significantly and will continue to rise further.
Initially, there was chaos, but students and parents were relieved to see that their wards would not have to wait till classroom coaching resumed or take a prolonged hiatus. A few students from Mumbai when asked about how they relate to the current situation, exclaimed, “Online coaching is a blessing. We are in the best frame as there is no concern of traveling to the institutes, we can study at our comfort of home, save time, and pace ourselves accordingly.”
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It is to be noted that, students found it a welcome change in their mode of study, as online platforms are quite interesting to learn with graphical representations and videos being scope for better understanding, it also adds on to broadening the horizon of the masses about a certain topic, growing their imagination with visualization.
The availability of various courses helped people to upgrade their skills or learn a new subject of their interest. The weight watchers could continue to exercise even though gyms and yoga centers were closed, the musicians could reach out to their fans easily, theatre and movie actors served us in the form of a pool of web series to choose from. Homemakers used this opportunity to showcase their cooking and baking expertise, even reaching out to teach by online sessions. Major Multinational Companies assigned work-from-home for their employees, and even freshers were given training the same way.
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However alluring it may sound, there is always a halt to most temptations once it hits monotonicity. That is what we do observe now among the students as well. Teachers across metropolitan cities were found stating: “As this mode of teaching is moving from being an option to being the only way of coaching, definitely it’s turning to be a tedious task to maintain the tempo of curriculum and at the same time keeping it interesting.”
Has e-learning made an impact globally? Yes. But, considering India is a nation with much diversity, in terms of the socioeconomic forum, it is certainly a different scenario here. The moment this nation went into complete lockdown, a chain reaction started. Segments of the society turned jobless, leading to many retreating to their native or homeland.
Most of the crowd in this segment belongs to the economically backward ones, and hence they were left with no options of survival, they did not have the required gadgets or possessed the finances to support buying them for their children to continue the education. This led to a sudden stop to their studies.
Moreover, many rural areas in India still do not have electricity or face frequent power cuts. Some have electricity, but they do not have a good internet connection, even if these issues are resolved, due to scarcity of resources and low maintenance, the internet connection is relatively poor, which did not help much during online sessions, as there would be multiple disconnections during one.
When a parent was questioned about online learning for her kid in kindergarten, she says, “My child hardly understands what is being discussed or said in the session because she’s not able to relate, she misses her friends, the different toys and slides which were a reason for these young learners to get introduced to the school.”
A similar reaction was shared by a college student after months of online learning, “It’s such a boring task to continuously stare at a screen and go ahead with live lectures or pre-recorded ones, both distract us, we can hardly concentrate, we tend to take frequent breaks and watch other entertaining stuff available.”
The teachers, educators, and coaches faced challenges like, due to no eye contact, the expressions of students cannot be predicted, it cannot be judged- if they can understand a concept or not. Also, not every educator is technologically sound, one needs patience and adaptability, but sudden changes did not grant them the time, leading many teachers jobless due to mediocre performances.
As with most teaching methods, this digital mode of learning has its own set of ups and downs. Let us try to decode the different pros and cons- so that the institutes can implement better strategies for efficient and smooth online sessions, thus delivering and ensuring an uninterrupted learning journey for students.
What are the benefits of Online education?
The efficiency of a topic can increase multiple folds by online education. Don’t you agree? Like, with traditional learning, you get diagrams and flowcharts on board. But, with the online learning techniques, you have access to a variety of tools like videos, PDFs, podcasts, and so teachers can use them and make their lectures all the more interesting and making the teachers- efficient educators.
Generally, we all have fixed timings for a specific class. But with the online trend, that is not the case. You are having the flexibility to choose and decide the time of a specific class that you wish to attend. If you are pursuing a course and working as well, juggling becomes easier this way. You can also avail of the recorded sessions for future use. It empowers you to delegate your time towards your different projects.
3. Time management:
The digital platform enables you to manage your time effectively. You no longer have to spend time commuting. Another advantage is, students can choose to attend lectures from any location of their choice. Like, if you reside in Mumbai, but want to attend a course that is offered by the Texas university, you can do that. Interesting!! This allows students to access the learning material as per their requirements.
4. Affordable and accessible:
You might have noticed- as compared to the traditional courses online ones are charged at a lower price. Even the school and colleges were forced to take fewer fees for the online courses. So practically, the fees have gone down by 50 to 60 percent. This is enabling more students to enroll in various courses.
5. Increased options
Today, you might have observed, unlike the traditional subjects, there are so many new options available to you. English speaking courses, content writing courses, language mastering skills, Baking classes, dance, and Zumba. Even you can choose better fitness, from various options as suits you. You can pursue them at the comfort of your own home. Isn’t it impressive!!
6. Networking opportunities:
With almost everything being online, you are in a better position to network with people from different backgrounds. You can get access to a lot of resources, give exams online. You can also interact with your trainer on a one-to-one basis. All this, at the comfort of any place you choose. It is like you need to just have the passion to pursue; rest everything can be customized as per your selection in online education.
What are the problems of Online education?
1. Difficulty to focus:
So, we all agree that the digital way of learning has too many positive effects and advantages. But, you would also agree to this point- that staring at the screen for long hours not only puts strain on the eyes but makes it difficult to focus. Human psychology says we are tempted towards distraction. And this only feels true with online education.
Like, you are trying to focus on a lecture, but after around an hour, you start feeling bored. The result? You move to YouTube, Social media sites, or any OTT (Over The Top) platform to check for their new releases. Happens with us? Can we relate to this? Traditional learning does not have a scope for this. You have no option other than to do your work or assignment till completion.
2. Technological flaws
As mentioned before, a consistent challenge in online learning is internet connectivity. While there is no doubt that internet penetration has grown over the years, even in remote areas of the country, internet speed fluctuates.
This leads to a halt or a pause, many times during an online session, making it a bad experience from the teacher’s end as well as the student’s end. Without a stable internet connection for students or teachers, there can be a lack of continuity in learning which proves detrimental to the education process.
3. Lack of teacher training:
We all are aware of the sudden rise in online teaching and coaching. Needless to say, many trainers and teachers are not so technically sound to cope up with this sudden change. Many a time, technology is present, but there is a stringent need to bridge the gap between technology and skills. The institutes and organizations should upskill them so that they may use all the latest tools and technology for upgrading themselves and be better trainers.
4. A feeling of isolation:
Students have started to feel a void in the online sessions. You might relate to this, can you? Like, one-to-one learning when the teacher is present in front of you makes a difference. While digitally, you start to feel isolated, even though you have your virtual tutor in front of you.
You learn a lot in the company of your peers. However, in an online class, minimal physical interactions between students and teachers make it sometimes difficult. It is expected that some virtual communication is increased in the form of online messages, emails, and video calls, to make a connection.
5. Increased screen time:
The online mode of education has brought another challenge to us all – the increased screen time. We all know how this sudden rise in total screen time can affect us. It can have its effects on our eyesight. Students may also develop bad posture and other physical complaints due to staying hunched in front of a screen. Parents are concerned about their children being exposed to so much screen time at an early age.
Online teaching is here to stay. With the increasing availability of information and knowledge, students must become lifelong learners in today’s world, and online education plays an important role in helping individuals in this direction. Student enrollments are increasing faster, they’re becoming more proficient with technology, with this, the future of online education will continue to grow.
Another question lies: Is India equipped enough to continue with online learning as the only mode of study? Factors like gender inequality, which is already prevalent in India, such as the unavailability of resources might force female students to quit and drop out. Specially abled students need assistance in person to be present for their education, which otherwise, is a challenge.
Sometimes, the courses offered online need to be checked for credibility and authenticity, which results in many instances where people are duped in quest of knowledge. Many certificates acquired from the certain online institute, do not get approved by many reputed organizations during recruitment.
Overall, it can thus be opinionated that the online medium provides for an easy, comfortable means and widens the area for education, but it cannot be a replacement to classroom learning. Therefore, at present, it is of utmost priority to dissolve the gaps like socioeconomic, gender inequality first, by reaching out to the remote areas and creating awareness, so that education can be equally distributed to and benefitted by all.