If there is any silver lining to COVID-19, it is that schools should now develop a viable remote learning module of teaching and examinations, says Team Viva
Now that coronavirus is a pandemic and schools and colleges are shut across the country, how will children make up for syllabus gaps and prepare for crucial exams that will take them to the next level? The answer clearly lies in online tutorials, exams and assessments that can maintain a continuity of the learning process without bothering about physical attendance. If there is any silver lining to Covid-19, it is that all schools evolve a digital learning plan and put tools in place to enable a quick pivot to remote learning if needed. It is also a good time to take stock of developing digital infrastructure and access that is affordable and uniform. For the world will bump into from one crisis to the next but knowledge and wisdom are needed to tackle them. Says Pankaj Kumar Singh, MD of Cambridge Montessori pre schools, “It’s the worst time for an epidemic as board exams are still on. The closures can be a serious threat to children’s academic progress, safety and social lives. This will have an impact on the next academic session too.”
Is virtual learning the way out? In a country like India, socio-economic equity is the biggest obstacle in preparing for online learning. There is a problem of over-served and underserved areas. The challenge for us is to ensure the strength of affordable devices and bandwidth in rural areas to universalise digital classrooms. Schools that have digital learning modules are already ahead and, therefore, should not make technology appear elitist. District administrations must figure out how to buy or rent Wi-Fi hotspots and then have a community plan for distributing both devices and hotspots.
During a school shutdown such as now, parents may also be working from home, meaning several people could be competing for one or two computers. Therefore, we must ensure smartphone-friendly apps so that there is no stress on access. An ill-conceived digital module can adversely affect low-income students and kids with special needs. “It’s a great option but now is a good time to start the research required for developing certain skills and equipment. Not all students might have the equipment or the right machinery in their household to learn the designing techniques,” says Akshara Dalal, Director of the JD Institute of Fashion Technology.
She argues that the popularity of online education modules would help students develop more than just academic skills. “Virtual learning is a great way to develop rounded perspectives because it promotes critical thinking and application beyond what academic sessions deliver. It can be more of a practical work, where students can self-explore. I believe that sometimes when students keep coming to classes regularly, they get limited to an extent by the teachers’ interpretation or they might get influenced by their classmates. So it can be an interesting turn.”
For Dharini Upadhyaya, co-founder and co-CEO of FSM and Pankaj, e-learning is the future as institutions have no other way out at the moment to keep things under control. “We must find interesting topics for engagement. Education is not just confined to conventional mainstream subjects. It’s also learning about allied subjects. Various media will, in fact, increase the curiosity of kids. Parents should look at alternatives such as online education, covering interesting concepts. One of the subjects can be arts,” says he. He also emphasises the need for educating both teachers and students on online protocols as to time slots, parking and uploading lessons in cloud data and stick to check-in and check-out times. Above all, educators must include virtual meetings, live chats or video tutorials to maintain a human connection. This need was felt after schools closed for a long time in Wuhan.
After weeks of largely being confined to their apartments, teachers began calling each other and leaving the lines open, even if they weren’t talking. They simply wanted the comfort of being able to speak up and have someone hear their voices. Teachers and students do miss each other.
Also, Indian institutions can follow the example of Coursera, a US online education company that recently announced it would provide any impacted university in the world with free access to its 3,800 courses online. Open online courses were originally born a decade ago to democratise access to higher education. Students and teachers around the globe at first became very attracted to the world’s largest ed-tech experiment. However, institutions later grew disappointed as the reachability and affordability came into question. Hence, the need of the hour is not to develop concessional but functional, scalable and viable models. This effort certainly won’t go waste.
Monday, 16 March 2020 | Team Viva
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