With a pandemic hitting countries across the globe, the world has come to a standstill. While the government and the bureaucracy are trying to limit the spread of the virus, and as headlines focus on those efforts, a major side effect has been overlooked: education. With around 777 million students being forced out of schools and colleges in over 100 countries, COVID-19 has amplified the struggles that children were already facing to receive a quality education.
What countries are now adopting is a transition to a completely digital form of learning. While this transition has not been much of a hassle for most private universities, the public ones are still struggling. There is also a lot of conjecture on the future of examination and evaluation, and experts are finding out ways to make this possible. With a lot of speculation about making learning completely online, there are a few pointers that show online learning in a positive light.
Online or technology-based education breaks all barriers of bias and does not differentiate between girls or boys or young or old. Simply put, it makes knowledge-seeking more inclusive. If continued, the amalgamation of technology and pedagogy will lead to a new era wherein the best of faculty will not remain a privilege for a few.
It may so happen that in times to come, a student is able to pursue a course from any of the universities of his choice without location being a limiting factor. Considering students in rural areas for whom going to campus was a difficult task, this is also an ideal time to experiment and deploy new mechanisms to make education delivery easy and meaningful.
According to experts, though the level of percolation of this system of learning is slow and difficult, with various advancements and newer online platforms coming up, students and teachers are now beginning to cast away their inhibitions and adapt to this newer form of knowledge acquisition. A few popular programs like National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), National Academic Depository (NAD), and National Knowledge Network (NKN) have been encouraging online learning for quite a few years.
However, as much as technology enables, it also limits us, especially in India, where basic internet access is a far-fetched reality for a few. Not every student is equipped with a smartphone/desktop or fast-streaming internet at home. This hinders their participation in online sessions and ultimately leads to lower attendance in classes.
Apart from this, online discussions can never fully replicate the essence of classroom discussions. Vivas, debates, moots, and conversations in certain fields like law, require nuanced perspectives which lose their flavor when done via a digital medium.
Subjects like that of design and fashion, will cripple the development of creativity in students if taught online. These demand interaction, teamwork, and a competitive environment to thrive, which is something that online education would fail to provide. Higher education, similarly, is more about the experience, peer-learning, and exposure. It is seldom about classes, marks, or grades.
To conclude, interim distance and remote learning programs might be the way forward but will online education be able to replace all forms of learning, is a question which we all need to ponder upon.