Reflections on a year gone by

Online learning has its pros and cons   | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The COVID-19 outbreak left its mark on almost all spheres of life, including education. While technological advances allowed learning to continue online, it is worth exploring what students across different levels feel about this change, even as attempts are being made to reopen educational institutions in a phased manner. Speaking to students from across the country threw up some interesting points:

is technology a boon or bane: Rohit, a student in West Bengal pursuing online classes offered from Chennai, felt that this period gave him an opportunity to develop basic skill sets to enhance his competency. “Youngsters also learnt vlogging and coding, which are now becoming quite popular”. Aditi from Odisha agrees. “The positive effect of attending online classes is that we know a lot more about information technology, various apps and programmes. Apart from academic learning, technological learning too has gained importance during this lockdown.” However, Anil from Noida felt that the lack of physical contact has made people “dull, lazy and inactive. Everyone has become addicted to smart phones and electronic gadgets.” A point of view that Nisha from Chennai concurs with. “The virtual walls have curbed our social and cultural lives.”

Attendance and assessment: Irrespective of the learning platform, many say that students log in at the beginning of the class and then move away to watch YouTube videos or play games. As a result, they do not gain anything from the classes. One student points out that even online exams are not foolproof. “While many take it seriously, some have tried to cheat and then share it in their peer groups,” he says, adding that online classes cannot replace a real classroom environment.

Teachers under stress: Teachers have experienced tremendous stress due to the online mode of education. First, the preparation time has almost doubled. Second, teachers believe that the students do not take their instructions seriously. Teachers now have to call each student to remind him/her to submit assignments or to appear for assessments. “Online classes do not provide enough variations for the teacher to innovate,” believes Kolkata-based Nidhi. Many miss the physical interactions and socialisation with teachers and their peer groups.

Physical discomfort: Given the long hours spent before the screen, either on a laptop or a smartphone, students are beginning to report ear and eye strain and also body pain. Depression and stress-related illnesses have also become common. While many report to being stressed by the online approach, Noida-based Harish points out, “People can’t share their feelings or express themselves in the way they used to before.” This, he says, leads to feeling low mentally.

Lack of socialisation: After close to eight months of a single mode of content delivery, students confess to being bored with online education. One student likened it to “a lion being confined to a small space in a zoo”. Most students would prefer a return to the offline mode of learning or at least a blended approach. They point out that interactions with classmates from diverse backgrounds led to different kinds of learnings about culture, traditions, and food habits, which are lacking now. Prithvi, a student from Noida, confesses that he now realises how not being able to socialise with his peers has affected him adversely. Others fear that lack of opportunities to socialise with their peer group and other age groups can have serious repercussions on an entire generation.

No extracurricular activities: Most college students begin to understand, value and internalise the institutional ethics and traditions only towards the end of the first year. This helps them build a strong affinity and connect with their institution. This is now not possible with online learning. Further, sports and cultural clubs have not had an opportunity to function during this year. This has meant that students have not been able to experience college life at its best.

Names of students have been changed on request.

The writer is Pro Vice-Chancellor, Hindustan Institute of Technology & Science, Chennai.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 7:44:33 AM |

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