Take the digital plunge

With the ongoing COVID-19-led lockdown, there are multiple challenges in education, for students, teachers, and parents

August 01, 2020 02:14 pm | Updated 02:14 pm IST

Freepik

Freepik

With the closure of educational institutions during the lockdown, approximately 1.72 billion learners have been affected worldwide, and around 32 crore in India alone, resulting in high socio-economic costs for education stakeholders.

The inaccessibility to physical classrooms encouraged ed-tech platforms to announce free live sessions, thereby questioning the role of education institutions. In response, private schools were quick to adopt, mandate, and implement new educational pedagogy — learning through digital means.

Learning for all

In this situation, the teacher’s role was challenging. Besides, teaching online, they also had to support students to complete assessments and tests. They stayed in constant touch with parents about their wards’ progress through WhatsApp groups, and virtual parent-teacher meetings. This blurring of professional and personal boundaries took a toll but they got the opportunity to gain more knowledge and skills. Parents had to invest in seamless wi-fi connectivity and ensure that their children paid attention to classes. In some cases, new gadgets had to be bought as well. However, students were quick to adapt to online classes and, even if they missed a session, teachers shared recorded sessions. Thus, it became possible to independently navigate the world of online learning.

Impact of government initiatives

The government has also encouraged digital learning through initiatives such as DIKSHA and eVidya. However, students belonging to less affluent families or living in remote places with no mobile network were left behind because of the cost of digital devices, data plans, or network connectivity. All this led to the broadening of the digital divide.

State administrations took a plunge to fill the gap for children studying in government schools by developing apps, sharing content through WhatsApp groups, and broadcasting content on radio, Doordarshan or other regional TV channels.

Blended learning

Various tech and ed-tech companies supported live classes, made recorded classroom sessions available on YouTube channels, allowed access to interactive study material rich in video and graphics, and helped students understand concepts easily.

Considerable planning will be required once the lockdown lifts. It is imperative to re-evaluate every school activity and emerge with new systems, which will become the ‘new normal’. Following strict social distancing measures and regimented one-desk-one-child seating arrangement could be implemented once schools re-open. Parents may opt for home schooling, if the situation worsens. While this strategy may not result in finishing the quarterly curriculum, it will at least reduce the learning gap that students are likely to experience if schools continue to remain shut.

Blended learning could also be the next normal. Schools can explore tutoring platforms with video conference facilities, customised modules, and assessments using technology and data that can help analyse what students like, their learning patterns, and their understanding of the concepts.

With the challenges and gaps associated with digital learning, the launch of a new education policy could serve as the first step for Indian education to transition into the digital sphere.

The writer is Head, Digital Initiatives, Schoolnet India Limited.

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