Updated: Jul 24, 2021
Applied Chemistry and Neuroscience,
Assistant Professor - St. Xavier's College (Autonomous),
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Since the emergence of the SARS- CoV-2, the times of the world have changed. We have become well accustomed to the online work-from-home lifestyle. As much as the working class of our population has faced numerous challenges, students have not skipped this pressure. It only rings a bell in our minds to believe that one can belong to any age group; stress is the constant companion.
However, today I want to highlight some of the very important outcomes of online learning and its impacts on students. Teachers, as they say, ‘loads of work’, not all have actually risen to the challenge of online teaching. Simply handing over YouTube or Khan Academy videos and sending short brief tests is not the only learning students want. The personal connection that an educator can make on a learner would be through a very didactic system – THE BLACKBOARD (or in some cases the whiteboard). The online tools have reached out to this facility to teachers in many ways, but only a handful actually put the effort to use such systems. To teachers who haven’t made their connection – you are preparing for a time period when technology will take over teaching jobs. But for those who have found a connection with their pupils will be the ones to transform from an educator to a facilitator.
When I asked students of various boards, and levels of learning for comments on online learning; the results were ambiguous. Some students enjoyed the learning as teachers imparted their knowledge to students in a many that was in the lines of the expected learning outcomes from that subject/course. The following graph shows (in percentage) the relative engagement of student learning in online classrooms.
The median of these statistics shows that nearly 35% (±1) students found that their learning and understanding of subjects on online learning was intermediate (neither disappointed nor satisfied; in a way to put it). Barely 7% (±1) of the students actually found that online learning year truly effective, along with the 26.30% (±1) who have been satisfied with the online learning system. Such students must have found a key connection with the subject/course and their teachers, that were able to make an impact on their lives with a virtual presence.
So when I question students about what were some of the factors that actually motivated them to continue to learn online, then the responses showed that students credited the fact that no traveling to school, the comfort of their homes, and ease of assessment and examinations played a major role, and a handful was able to explore newer options/selections of alternate subjects beyond textbook syllabi. Of course, the COVID – 19 factor remains the king when it comes to putting us all indoors, but students found other reasons to want online learning. But the critics of this pedagogy were much more than its positives. The following graph shows the percentage of students' choices to the reason why they would want to go back to school.
So friends, peer interactions, sports, and frustration of the lockdowns that have caused a psychological energy build-up that needs physical activities to dissipate this energy all come through campus-based education. Nonetheless, canteen meets and greets, interactions in libraries, physical training sessions, and sports in schools/colleges play a vital role in the holistic well-being of a child. Parents made comments like, ‘For a better social understanding, learning should happen to keep in mind that the child is not only academically proficient but has the ability to carry that proficiency to the social level.’ While some students from colleges made comments like, ‘Schools and colleges are one of the main aspects of socialization for everyone. We get to make new friends, meet people with different interests that widen our chances to learn new things. Also, schools and colleges are the first places where we as children and youngsters learn to socialize with people other than their family.
When asked to compare the effectiveness of online v/s offline learning nearly 51% of the population under study opted for offline exams purely out of fear for future academics when the foundational level grading has been hampered. People fear the unemployment ratios in the years to comes as students could lack academic insights. One parent made the following comment, ‘Students will be promoted without actually verifying their ability to handle a higher class. This will eventually produce incompetent individuals lacking skills that would otherwise have been acquired by physical interaction on campus. For me personally, potential employers will be unable to judge my capabilities in the relevant fields, which otherwise would have been possible through academic records.’
From the remainder 49% who opted for online learning, many were degree college students who work not only to academic grades but also to skill-based learning. Thus, some students made comments like, ‘I have had a strong opinion on the evaluation process of our education system. It's one standardized paper for 50 children in a class who are individuals with varied interests. So Examinations do not hold much weightage as far as I am concerned. It's the learning that's more important and that's what I am concerned about. The exams, not so much.’
Having a look at this I would conclude by saying as long as COVID stays out our kids are going to stay in. One cannot escape the truth, but we can bring in the change faster. We can be the catalyst to eliminate/minimize or reduce the spread of SARS- CoV-2. We do not need gatherings and mela’s, we do not need clusters of people. We need the education to safeguard the future of our country. A well-educated country can only pave the way with scientific rationale out of the Pandemic. Only when the spread is low can our children go to school, with all precautions taken, but education remains active.