With the pandemic overtaking our lives, the nation is still putting forward it’s best efforts so that it’s citizens can continue with their normal lives despite the circumstances. Discovering ways to do things they would have done normally during this period, but this time confined within the four walls of their homes.
With the summer holidays ending, schools and colleges have geared up and have started with their new academic year by adopting the method of E-learning. Schools and colleges have gone completely online. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has given a nod to the SOP submitted by the education department.
E-Learning, a Boon or a Bane?
While E-learning is believed to benefit students and bring normalcy in lives while making sure that the student’s year won’t be jeopardized as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some quite many people don’t believe in the same. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Monday said that if any citizen questions the government's decision to encourage e-learning (online classes) then s/he would be acting against our nation.
A bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and Shreeram Modak said e-learning would help India become stronger in the field of digital education. This new method of learning and teaching is posing quite a host of challenges for both the teachers as well as students. While the students living in the city have easy access to the internet, those living in rural areas face network issues and are feeling left behind in this process of E-learning.
Tech Inequality: Not Everyone Has Access
Millions of Indian children lack access to online education as they do not have smartphones, computers, or an Internet connection. "There are about 1,600,000 students in Delhi's state government schools. About five percent of them don't have access to these facilities," says PD Sharma, general secretary of the Government Schools Principals' Association of Delhi. The figure indicates that about 80,000 students may not have access to online education in the country's capital. So the situation in smaller cities and towns can only be imagined.
A Host of New Challenges
A Tripura man ended his life after failing to buy a smartphone for his daughter’s online classes. The mode of education thus seems insufficient.
Even if we stop considering these issues, another issue that worries the teachers is online abuse. It's been almost two weeks since colleges have started conducting online lectures, and several cases of misconduct among the students have been seen.
Last week, three students of a well-known South Bombay college were suspended as they had shared the login ID and passwords of their lectures with outsiders, who interrupted the lecture and disrupted the class by posting spam. In an hour’s lecture, the teacher cannot keep a check on authentic users, while some platforms have this feature, they are paid and expensive and the colleges can’t afford them.
A prominent school in Kolkata ditched online classes after hackers sneaked into several lectures and displayed obscene videos on the screen and threatened the students and teachers. A parent told a leading newspaper that the hackers used abusive language and threatened students with rape and murder. As a result, teachers had to suspend online classes.
Students Weigh in
When asked the students how their experience with online lectures has been going so far, “As online teachings have taken over our lives, this has been a month, we are experiencing its effects and changes. According to me, nowadays I don't worry too much about managing attendance, getting more interactive, and participative in the class than before because there is an option for chatting available on platforms like zoom and google meet, where I feel more comfortable to put my opinions.
But somewhere or the other, I miss the college campus, the people, those high-fives and the all-time 'favorite spots’ of students which are present around every college which I don't need to mention.” said Kaustubh Bagalkote a student of SM Shetty College, Powai, Mumbai.
Another student, Divya Shaj says “I do appreciate and recognize all the hard work that goes into virtual lecture planning. However, nothing beats offline studying. I'd prefer to go all the way to an institution because the travel time is what gets our minds ready, be it for five minutes or one hour.
Staying confined within four walls tends to keep my thoughts distracted and I'd end up losing concentration in such a personal environment. Another reason why physical institutions are way better than virtual learning is that we as students need the exposure of face to face interaction. We also need practical experiments to learn better. Virtual education falls short of a lot of things that a student requires to excel."
On the Brighter Side?
Online lectures however have proved to be more beneficial for students with social anxiety and other mental health problems like ADHD. The environment is less chaotic and comfortable for students to interact and participate more with the teachers in the class. Even if a student with social anxiety is afraid to speak up or ask a question, he/she can resort to the chatbox feature and get their doubts cleared.
Since these lectures are recorded, the student can go back and watch the part they might have failed to understand or lost their attention. As per the survey conducted by New Delhi researcher Suranjana Bhaduri and Mumbai-based researcher Kalpana Bindu, in Mumbai and National Capital Region (NCR) during the lockdown in April and May, whopping 86% cent of children was missing their classroom for more than one reason and they preferred their classrooms environment more than the online classes.
It is What it is
Despite the difficulties faced; Physical lectures however seem impossible till the end of the year as the number of cases in Mumbai and the country is on a rise. So, while online schools have become a reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s no denying that in today’s India, E-learning lacks sufficiency and requires updates to tackle the various issues raised against it.
Education is a right in India, so the states and the nation as a whole need to overcome these difficulties and provide sufficient learning to every student.