By Sanjay Tyagi
Online education comes in shades of grey. With educational institutions closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online education has proven to be a panacea. Most of the institutions have switched on to online platforms such as Zoom, Google classrooms. Many still find it a Herculean task; the challenges of online education are multifaceted.
No doubt, online education allows students to learn at their own pace without inhibitions. For the students who find learning in large classrooms intimidating, this may be a less stressful option.
I think that imparting lessons online is a big challenge if the teachers are not well-versed in creating digital content and conveying it effectively. In that case, formal learning is not happening. Body language and eye contact, which are essential cues for the teacher, are difficult to perceive in an online class. Teachers do not get continual feedback in the form of students’ reactions during online sessions, which reduces teaching effectiveness. How many students have understood the lesson? Are some students left behind? How many have paid attention? Is the teaching pace alright? These questions, which are an integral part of learning, always remain unaddressed.
Learning is not confined to the four walls; it goes beyond that. Teaching science often include hands-on laboratory sessions, dissertation projects and field trips to complement theoretical studies. This aspect of learning is limited in online education. Moreover, learning is just about acquiring subject knowledge and developing social skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills etc. I strongly feel online education does not help students learn in its true sense, Virtual learning offers a good substitute to classroom teaching in an emergency, but it cannot replace the classroom. Classroom learning is advantageous. It provides the benefits of face to face interactions with peers. It gives children, especially those in their early development years, a stable environment for social interaction, helping them develop empathy and cooperation. It also allows plenty of room for spontaneity, unlike a virtual learning setup.
In school, students create a learning environment that supports their intellectual, social, and mental growth, resulting in actual learning. The online mode of teaching forecloses this opportunity.
Learning is not limited to the syllabus; it includes discipline, mannerisms etc. These traits are difficult to inject through online mode.
(The author is the Chairman of St. Froebel School, New Delhi)