Online classes: the yearning to go offline

The biggest realisation for students attending online learning is how much they miss their school and friends

August 06, 2020 12:22 pm | Updated August 07, 2020 12:47 pm IST - Hyderabad

Log in, click, camera on. This is the new normal for students. Post lockdown, school students are realising how much they love school, and say that they would do anything to be back in a classroom with their friends.

As six-year-old Rishaan Seth and his four-year-old sister Ridhi get ready for their respective classes every morning, they request their mother Reshmi to help them with their uniforms. Rishaan says, “I miss wearing my uniform and playing on the basketball ground. I want to go back to school.”

Online instruction methods and platforms vary across schools. Every school has devised its own teaching methods. Some use Microsoft classroom, some Zoom, Google Duo and so on. However, as it turns out, no matter what platform they choose, students are not very happy.

“Looking into the computer screen and paying attention to the teacher is a new experience. I found it very tiresome at first,” says John Mathew, a Class VI student at St Andrews High School, Hyderabad. Another Class IV student Ayushman Nair Das, from Guwahati agrees. “I find it chaotic. There are so many different things to do and learn — be it the school classes or piano lessons, all on the laptop or mobile phone. We all talk at the same time, and no one listens to me,” he says, and adds grudgingly, “One good aspect of online classes is I’m becoming familiar working on a laptop, like dad.”

After a month of online classes that stretch for four hours a day on average, a number of students say that going to school was easier and less tiresome. “Online classes are pretty hectic; you have to set up the laptop/PC in a place with perfect lighting so that the teacher can see you and you can see them properly, and the internet connection has to be good. I definitely prefer classes in person, then you don’t have to go through this stress of finding the perfect spot,” says Divyana Sandilya, who is in the Class XI. She goes on, “Another drawback is it can be quite distracting. The teacher can’t really see me, so I tend to get up and go out, maybe talk with someone for a few minutes. I have a puppy, and sometimes I play with her and end up missing a few minutes of the class.”

Most students miss the personal interaction. At first, the chaos and random messaging between groups of friends provided some comic relief, but it was going out of hand. “A boy in our class sent an abusive message to another boy in a classroom chat. That message went to the teacher and he was warned by the principal,” says Prateek Sen of Class VI, Delhi Public School. He adds, “before starting online classes, my parents took me through the process and spoke to me about the options of asking doubts through a message on the app. My mother keeps an eye on me during class. I am waiting to go back to school.”

As students are already tired of using screens, they are less likely to reach for their parents’ gadgets now. Eleven year-old Anahita Mohan of Sadhu Vasvani school says, “Earlier I loved looking into my dad’s or mother’s phone, or even the laptop. Now I don't feel like looking at it after I am done with my online classes.” These classes are also forcing parents to have limited screen time. Reason: “It’s my child’s online class time,” says Swati Upadhyay mother of nine-year-old Kannav. While some parents share their laptop or mobiles with children for classes, others need to monitor their children’s class hours.

Music classes have also migrated online, and they seem to be faring better. Seventeen-year-old Rashi Harmalkara, a student of Furtados School of Music, (FSM), Mumbai has been learning to play the piano and guitar for a year. With the pandemic and lockdown, she says “I felt that my piano and guitar lessons would come to a standstill. But to my surprise, in just a week’s time, FSM arranged online classes. These classes have the same personal touch of the classroom; the guidance given during the online classes is splendid.”

To pay attention to each student, Promiti Phukan teaches one student at a time. She had to shift to online classes within months of launching Cadenza Music Academy in Guwahati. Divyana, a piano student with Cadenza music academy says, “Group lessons don’t go too well because we have different doubts. Imagine a teacher trying to spot a student’s mistake amidst 15 — all playing online simultaneously.”

Promiti adds, “As a teacher, I cannot imagine myself muting the students and talking about music. Like all arts, music is all about learning as we progress. So, I decided against group sessions and teach each student individually. Yes, it leaves me with no time for myself or anything else. I love my profession and my students respect the time I am devoting to them.”

Is there anything nice about online classes? “The sessions get over quickly and I get to have good lunch at home because mummy is working from home and makes sure of a good menu everyday,” says 16-year-old Rishi, Kanav’s elder brother.

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