Once Swami Vivekananda had said in his letter to the Maharaja of Mysore on June 23, 1894: “The one thing that is at the root of all evils in India is the condition of the poor…The only service to be done for our lower classes is to give them education, develop their lost individuality.” Education is a virtue that stays with the individual throughout their life and can be used to change the world. But today the means for the virtue is on the crossroad across the globe due to the corona pandemic. The outbreak has disrupted the academic year, cancelled classes and examinations across the country. To ensure that the students don’t miss out on their studies hence schools moved classes online, forcing students to attend lectures via their gadgets. The transition from standing before the students in the classroom since ages to online education has sparked a debate on whether this new paradigm can be the future of pedagogy?
Online Education- An opportunity for change
Online education is about accessibility and inclusivity. Many students are put off by expensive full-time campus-based courses while for others, studying full-time clashes with their responsibilities like raising a young family. Hence online learning will act as a boon for them including those living in a completely different country.
Digital tools such as AI can be adopted not only to deliver personalized instructions based on the learning needs of each student but also for teaching differently-abled students, It’s also helpful in reducing the workload on teachers that will allow them to flex their skills in a way that is more beneficial to students i.e. less time spent on grading workbooks enables them to spend more time with students at an individual level.
Pedagogic material must be made available in other national languages. This will extend access and overcome the staff shortage that plaque remote institutions.
In education, a teacher acts as an intellectual midwife who facilitates a child’s thought process and creativity through engagement in critical dialogue, and a diverse and inclusive classroom act as a laboratory for hands-on testing of ideas, interpretations, and counterarguments. It also helps in overcoming fear of anxiety, discrimination, and stage fear. Taking a higher education online is just like taking up a sport like a cricket or a football online. One can learn it when one is actually engaged with it in one’s gully or field.
According to a survey, it has been seen that as high as 95% of the students drop out of the virtual learning programs. The reasons behind it are solitary learning, lack of social elements, and lack of personal attention that one gets from traditional classrooms lead to demoralization and hence give up.
There are other challenges as well. When committed to following a university calendar forces the students to complete the course in time rather than postponing it. Anything done online deviates attention as children check emails, chat with friends, or surf web while attending online lectures.
Last but not least is the hardware and software issue that must be addressed before online learning takes off. There are large sections of the population who don’t have access to technology which is a huge concern.
Although e-learning is advancing, it’s not flawless. Hence the best solution will be integration rather than a complete replacement for traditional classrooms. Moreover, schools and other higher education institutions have started doing this, for instance, Copenhagen based company Labster has started developing virtual reality products in collaboration with Google that will allow science students to carry out virtual experiments including a VR game where a forensic science student can investigate a virtual crime scene and analyze the evidence they find. After all, learning is a social experiment. It not only includes learning content but learning to deal with others where teachers play an influential role.
Tectonic shifts in society and business occur when an unexpected event forces widespread experimentation around a new idea. The Y2K problem, for instance, demanded the extensive use of Indian software engineers for fixing the bug and hence enabled them to establish their credentials and emerge as world leaders in addressing technical problems. Today, Alphabet, IBM, Adobe are all headed by Indian born engineers. Similarly, the Covid-19 pandemic will bring about a transformation in many aspects of life including education. There is no doubt that online education will soon become a major part of learning institutions across the globe but the main focus should be on quality education for all including the poor and underserved. The ideology of growth and development should be woven around all including farmers, artisans, and workers. After all the good of the individual is contained in the good of all.