Covid-19: Education system’s big shift from classrooms to computers

Apr 17, 2020

The crisis is always paired with opportunities. And it’s time to appreciate the full potential of technology for learning.

The biggest change that the education system globally has seen this year is the massive shift to e-learning or digital classrooms.

The previous few weeks have observed heightened awareness of the Coronavirus outbreak in the nation. In an earnest effort to contain this virus, several measures are being implemented by the government.

To reduce large gatherings, locking down the country is the major step that the government has taken towards safeguarding the citizens of the nation.

While most of the corporate industry is functioning from home; schools, colleges and other institutions have ordered temporary shut down too.

As the virus spreads across the globe, let us understand what it means to the education of the students, who are now under the ‘house arrest’.

Number of schools shut due to Covid-19

Earlier UNESCO had announced that 22 countries had closed schools, affecting over 290 million children, while nine other countries had implemented localized closures.

Considering millions of school-going students in India and their health and safety, it’s time to harness digital platforms judiciously to ensure that their learning does not stop.

UNESCO too suggested that digital learning platforms can help students’ access to quality education remotely during times like these.

Shift to E-learning

The crisis is always paired with opportunities. And it’s time to appreciate the full potential of technology for learning. In the wake of this medical emergency and keeping the students’ safety in mind along with their academic concern, different stakeholders in the education space have been endorsing online learning so that the learning only grow and do not recede.

Majority of private schools and other educational institutions have initiated mandatory virtual classes on a daily basis, and thus, teachers are unfailingly sharing their lessons over skype call, zoom call or any other virtual class options to keep the learning on.

Wherever and whenever required, the training is provided to students and teachers through videos to use technology to facilitate virtual classes. Some education institutes are also providing pre-recorded videos of lessons to students where teachers explain the topics extensively.

With this uncertainty on the horizon, edtech players in India have also decided to take it upon themselves to help students stay at home without compromising on their lessons. These companies are creating a breakthrough, offering free access to their courses during a time that typically flags off the exam season.

At the same time, the move has been met with an overwhelming response from the students.

Benefits of E-learning

The digital learning platforms said the students with full access to the study material as well as allow them to engage in online classes and interact with the teachers like the physical classroom setting. The feedback is encouraging from both teachers and students.

Students are abiding by the learning schedule and submitting their assignments on time. All this contributes to personalized learning of students.

There are many other benefits associated with digital or virtual classes, especially promoting students’ voice and choice, a flexible learning pace, and the ability to learn anytime, from anywhere.

Adaptive learning is one of the techniques for providing personalized learning experiences, to enable effective and tailored learning paths to engage students and address their individual needs.

Even the Government of India promotes digital learning through its various e-learning platforms like SHAGUN, Diksha, e-Pathshala for the students.

Covid-19 outbreak triggering the new education revolution

Ironically, it has taken a pandemic like Covid-19 outbreak to get the education sector to swing to digital mode with both human and technical support. The only reason that universities and some schools in districts have been able to march towards remote learning is that technology stack has evolved a good bit in the last four years.

The utilization of technology has opened up new opportunities of learning for students of all ages and tossing the traditional notion of classrooms and education by breaking the geographical barrier.

Technology has led a pedagogical change while addressing concerns that affect teaching, learning and social functionalities. Till the time this dreaded pandemic gets controlled, it is the digital learning that will bridge the gap between teachers and learners.

Stay-at-home learning should continue

Many schools, colleges and universities switched to platforms from the likes of Microsoft and Google along with various conferencing apps such as skype, zoom for conducting online classes. A shift in the teaching methodology is being observed at-large.

A large number of private schools in urban cities made arrangements and trained teachers to teach, communicate and engage with students in online classes.

These e-learning programs have been designed to improve communication with each other. While learning through tutorials, video calls, sharing screens and enabling learning software, help students make the most of their virtual learning experience.

Underprivileged students are lagging behind in the age of digital learning

However, a large section of students from underprivileged/ backward families or living in remote areas don’t have access to the internet. Moreover, a considerable fragment of teachers and students are not equipped to configure the online class model to teach. So we really have to look at democratizing education.

At the end of the day, students, irrespective where they are and how old they are, learning should never stop. As an immediate response to the medical crisis, adaptability towards digital learning has been accelerated.

Classroom environment is best for learning

However, a physical classroom environment and interaction has been perceived as the best form of teaching-learning method.

Though globally, online education has witnessed some success, in India, digital learning would still take time before it is seen as a mainstream learning style.

However, the Covid-19 outbreak, and the resultant lockdown, has forced the adoption of digital education amongst the learners. The hope is, it might as well lead to newer teaching-learning patterns that could prove to be more effective and efficient in the long run.

(Article by: Shourie Chatterji, Head – Digital Initiatives, Schoolnet India Limited)