Wide angle Education

Promote learner autonomy

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Learn anywhere, any time without pressure and boredom. Flexible learning and learner autonomy are the greatest benefits of e-learning. Thanks to the pandemic, online learning has become popular and has led to questions about the effectiveness of traditional face-to-face classroom instruction and discussions on the need to integrate technology into teaching and learning, to design creative online learning content and to continue flexible learning.

When virtual instruction suddenly replaced traditional classroom teaching across the globe, teachers and students initially struggled to use video conferencing tools for learning and communication. Now most of them are comfortable using these tools though the digital divide is a major problem.

Questions galore

Now, after a year-long break, educational institutions have reopened partially and students have started attending physical classes.

How do students feel after a long break? Have educational institutions assessed the effectiveness of online teaching and learning? Which mode of teaching is more effective? Do students have a say? What lessons have educators learnt from the disaster? We need to genuinely seek answers to these questions in order to move forward and make education meaningful to all.

A few weeks ago, I posted a query on social media about whether online education will be as popular as it is now after the pandemic is over. I also discussed the topic with some educators and students. The reactions were mixed and varied.

As both modes have their own advantages and disadvantages, some learners and educators prefer a blended approach that combines online material with traditional classroom teaching. It paves the way for flexible learning. Face-to-face interaction with teachers and fellow students is essential to develop the much-needed 21st century skills: the 4Cs of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

Benefits of online learning

Students can learn anywhere, any time, at their own pace. Online learning promotes learner autonomy. With constant developments in Internet technology and communication channels, students have access to quality materials in the form of videos from top educational institutions.

Looking at the pandemic positively, we can say that teachers have learned that they can learn new skills and integrate technology into teaching. Quite astonishingly, more and more teachers are comfortable using video conferencing tools and have realised the importance of being creative and innovative to teach effectively online. Many students have realised that it is not worth attending physical classes in teaching factories. Fortunately, there are some universities that are ready to offer online UG and PG programmes at an affordable cost. Even parents see justification in opting for online courses.

Why blended learning?

Though there are many advantages of online education, in a country like India, where a vast majority of students do not have access to the Internet, it is not possible to focus only on online education. Since students have been exposed to online learning, we should try blended mode of teaching / learning: For example, three hours of classroom teaching/learning + two hours of virtual teaching/learning or three days of classroom learning and three days of virtual learning.

It is high time that educational institutions stopped the spoon-feeding system and promote innovative thinking among students. They should promote learner autonomy, which will help students prepare for the workplace.

The writer is an academic, columnist and teacher educator. E-mail: rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 2:11:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/promote-learner-autonomy/article33641767.ece

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