Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) was first detected in China in 2019 in Wuhan of Hubei Province. Since then coronavirus has become a new threat to humanity and many countries across the world have implemented forced lockdown to tackle the spread of COVID-19.
In our country, we are also facing the coronavirus threat since March 2020. Following the declaration by World Health Organization (WHO) that COVID-19 is a pandemic, the Central and State Governments have announced lock down with immediate effect and havealso taken several possible safety measures like closure of all academic and educational institutions, imposing strict restriction in public gatherings, shutdown of shopping malls, play grounds, hotels and restaurants, cinema halls, etc. to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Pandemic make changes in the delivery model of education. Manyacademic institutions havedecided to move their courses online and have chosen different online platforms (Google-Meet, Skype, Team, Zoom) to impart education.Concept of online teaching learning evolves as a promising alternative to regular classroom teaching.It bridges the gap between students and teachers and makesthem feel as if they are sitting in a classroom.In this brief note, I am going to highlight some advantages and some key challenges in this field.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Education Sectors:
Coronavirus has imposed a serious challenge to the academic sector. It has caused disruption of education for nearly 290 million students globally (Reported by UNESCO). Closure of academic institutions was indeed necessary to save life from coronavirus threat. The three key words of life now are ‘stay at home, stay safe and social distancing’. Learning-online is the mostacceptable option for students and academician until a vaccine becomes available. Digital tools and platforms can play a vital role during this COVID-19 created crisis.So with the help of technology, we can re-think and then re-orient our teaching learning pedagogy based on the needs of the students.
Approach towards Online Teaching:
Many of us still believe that face-to-face model of teaching-learning-evaluation is the best option as compared to teaching online. But it is the right time to look for alternatives. If students aren’t able to come to the classroom then the only option left is to bring the classroom into their house.
Thisonline remote learningincludes computer based learning, web-based learning, online virtual classes offered by various academic institutions. However the immediate move towards online education is not easy. It requires lot of planning at the ground level. In this context preparation of resources (lecturer materials, lecturer video) are very important. Institutions should take initiatives to create a technology-enabled environment for maintaining contacts with students and guardians and to teach them online. Professors and teachers from Colleges and Universities can use several communicating platforms like Zoom, Team, or Skypeto reach the students to impart education. The mode of communication includes:
- Conduction of online classes.
- Sharing and uploading of lecturer materials (pre-recorded lecturers, PDFs, power-point presentations) through emails, Institution’s website.
- Sending regular assignments and taking online tests.
If someone misses a particular online class due to interruption in internet connection, he/she can later see the recorded version of the same in his/her suitable time. Only appropriate link has to be shared among the learners. In addition, students can also avail several online educational platforms like Coursera, FutureLearn, Simplilearn and continue their education by watching video lectures, listening to audio and downloading reading materials. Learners can learn according to his/her preferences and interest through these online educational-platforms. However, the present model of online education is just web based learning. Installation of any package-software is not required. A laptop/desktop orsmart phone with internet connection and web-browsers, that’s all we need to starttransferring knowledge and skills. It is rightly described as ‘emergency remote teaching’.
Does Pandemic reforms our Education:
At present we are going through the phase of Unlock 2 and have observed a sudden abrupt enhancement in the number of reported confirmed cases in India. We have the highest reported confirmed cases in Asia and also it is the third highest in the world after Untied States of America and Brazil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19 pandemic in India). If problems caused by COVID-19 pandemic stay in same intensity for next couple of months, then normal interactive classroom teaching will be very difficult even in next semester.
Can these digital platforms be a suitable replacement of a physical classroom? At this point we don’t actually know how long the academic institutions will remain closed. Teaching online requires communication, delivery, distribution of class materials and assessments; hence a meaningful integration of education with technology is the necessity.All academic institutionsare now slowly incorporate online education into their strategic planning to impart education at the state of emergency. It is not that we are looking for a drastic change in the conventional way of teaching and learning; rather we are trying to re-orient the conventional way to continue teaching-learning process even in this present scenario.Quality online education requires both rich content and scope for interaction among student-content, student-student and student-teacher. Integration of content with scope for interaction in a meaningful way could enhance the learning outcomes. Followings are some key advantages of remote teaching:
Advantages ofOnline learning:
- The interface between learners and trainers is user friendly and above all students feel a classroom experience by sitting safely at his/her home.
- One can easily share study materials in all formats (PDFs, PPTs, and lecturer videos) either through emails or can upload it in website and conduct online live classes.
- Flexible in time, teachers can upload the lecture materials before the class hours, andclassroom time could then be more productive and interactive.
- One can easily note down the participation of students in online classes and online exams, based on the performance extra tutorials can be conducted.
- Presently most of the competitive exams are being conducted in online mode. Participation in online tests, quizzes can improve competitive mind of students.
- One can also conduct webinars,communications between renowned subject experts and students is made possible through these online webinars.
India is a vast country. Indian Universities and colleges are gradually developing their online teaching-learning programmes. Quality online learning programmes require lot of planning, preparation and investments. It is equally true that participation in online education requires computers/smart phones and internet connectivity. Problem comes when a student do not have access to those digital devices and internet connection. In the long run success of online learning requires Govt. should provide free broad-band connection and suitable devices to every leanersand digital equity in education has to be ensured.
At present, whole world is fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of some challenges, teaching online covers a lot of ground in academics in this crisis situation. In future India will do well on online education and will create far better opportunity for learners. Recently IIT-Bombay has introduced a self-paced online course (https://sites.google.com/view/iitb-teachonline) for instructors.It is a continuous process, more such courses are needed to be prepared and also on regional languages and shared among the learners and experts, that willincrease awareness of online education.As rightly said every cloud has a silver lining. Lock down gave us short but some effective time to introduce online teaching and learning into mainstream education. Once we will return to normal life, realize that digital technology and online classes are companion to the face-to-face teaching and learning. On top of that, the resource materialsprepared for online courses will be an asset for academician and institution. In this crisis moment parents and teachers can join hands to motivate students to be fully involved in online teaching-learning process.
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