City Sunday

Online education – pros and cons

By Pradyu M
The teaching profession and the teaching community are going through a complete change nowadays. The lockdown due to the fatal pandemic COVID 19  and the closure of educational institutions, for students safety, until normalcy, has made the stakeholders in the education field to adopt new methods to see that learning is not halted come what may. As social distancing, staying safe at home and isolation became mandatory the only alternative for man’s thirst for giving and taking knowledge became through online teaching and learning using e-gadgets. The teacher now has taken a new avatar, that of an online professional travelling in cyberspace and walking right into the homes of their students.

Though the method helps education to flow smoothly a number of hindrances pop up which if not solved at the right time and taking the right measures can result in a lot of pressure and problems for the teacher’s, students and parents. Lack of experience and lack of training regarding the new mode of teaching really gives many a teacher the jitters and apprehension in the online method of teaching. Along with this when lack of cyber knowledge and technical sense fuse together the tension, pressure and anxiety of those in the teaching profession increases further. Teachers who all along been doing the job in the traditional method find it difficult in a format that is highly dependent on technology and is in a way highly artificial.

Parental support

It is here that parents can help the teachers and the students and play a pivotal role in creating a suitable teaching and learning environment. The anxiety and apprehension of those teachers who find it difficult in ” cyberspace teaching ”  is half reduced when parents support and encourage them which in turn helps their wards to imbibe and enhance knowledge.

Can online teaching replace classroom?

Can online teaching replace regular classes or is online teaching and learning going to be the new mode of education post-COVID are questions now being taken as topics for debate everywhere? The answer to this is clear and transparent. Online education got in only as an alternative to overcome the pandemic crisis and may stay post the COVID crisis but then it can never replace the traditional classroom scenario which is sure to last till mankind and this planet remains. Life and Humanity survive in bondage and sharing which cyber technology or machines or any sort of intelligence will never be able to wipe off.

Children and online learning

Though just some time ago our youngsters  – especially school going kids were prohibited from having and using mobiles and computers for a long time it seems nowadays children are the ones using these for long hours of time as online classes have become a must for every child in this COVID pandemic period. In India, lakhs of students are now glued to the laptop and mobile screen listening and interacting with their teachers who have become  ‘regular visitors right on their table and in their hands’!

Hindrances online…

Now, though online classes have become a go-to solution and truly to an extent helping educational institutions to beat the Covid-19 lockdown and push ahead with the academic calendar it has raised many concerns among educational experts and stakeholders. Overuse of digital devices and too much of exposure to the internet, experts and psychologists fear can harm young minds in a hazardous way and that too unpredictable. A young mind sailing in the vast turbulent cyberspace can be vulnerable and prone to all sorts of cyber perils. Even the UNESCO and UNICEF has expressed concern regarding this.

Too much usage of cyber devices can lead to danger. They can be victimised to all sorts of cyber crimes – cyberbullying, cyber hacking and even fall into the hands of sexual predators as children, especially teens, are vulnerable and if not careful can fall prey into the dangerous claws of maniacs who target children.
Parents and teachers have to be double vigilant in this matter.
Also, care has to be given to those having hearing and visionary problems like too much online engagement can worsen the health of those suffering from the aforementioned problems.

Online is “offline” for the poor and the rural 

Though many are happy with online learning let us not forget that there are some who are unable to have this facility due to economical problems. Children from very poor families may get deprived of such amenities. Experts say if the government can go for common educational television channels and radio programmes it can help solve this problem. The  Kerala government has already initiated programs via the television media which has been lauded for its planning and rich content. Our vast nation is a developing one and let us not forget that the majority of its huge population are the poor and the rural folk. On one side when poverty and penury kill the dreams of poor children unable to possess e-devices on the other side we have problems like connectivity of internet and electricity.

No doubt India’s internet usage has grown dramatically and today we stand as the world’s third-largest internet population after China and the US. But connectivity remains a major barrier in many parts of the country. As connectivity improves, driven by Modi’s vision of a Digital India, let us hope that the number of learners benefiting from online education will increase. Electricity connection or power connection has to reach the remotest areas and should be accessible to everyone in the country.

What can be done?

It is high time that Indian techies come out with brainy ideas to manufacture state of the art technological devices that are moderately priced and can reach the home of every  Indian child. Let our computer wizards come out with devices meant for learning purposes and which can be used for online learning activities and knowledge gaining and thus make the lives of the young safe and secured. The government too which is promoting and encouraging the idea of ‘Make in India  ‘ and a self-reliant India come true should take immediate steps to make that idea come true and now is the time for it.

The spirit and enthusiasm shown by the ministry of education and the education departments of the various states must be put into practice and it must be done in a public-friendly way where even those belonging to the lowest economical level should benefit.

The centre and the state governments will have to study, monitor, take immediate measures and execute plans to solve the problems related to online learning especially of the poor and the rural folk. If it is not done at a war footing the nation is going to witness another division -a digital class divide where the rich and the privileged gain not only wealth but knowledge too and the poorer section of the society gets poorer due to inaccessibility of knowledge via the digital mode. For an upcoming nation like ours, digital literacy is very important and it is the right of every citizen to access it to better his life, better his society and for the betterment and welfare of the nation.

(The writer is a regular contributor to City Today).

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