Classroom connect: education in the times of a pandemic

Despite growing in significance, will remote learning replace classroom-based learning and physical textbooks?

Updated - September 15, 2020 04:57 pm IST

Published - September 14, 2020 06:42 pm IST

Freepik

Freepik

Due to the ongoing pandemic, educational institutions have been forced to shut down physical classes and resort to online interactions. The technology for online interactions and remote learning that has been available for quite some time now is being increasingly adopted. With study-at-home being the new norm, students are hunched in front of their computers or their mobile phones trying to keep up with their studies. Having experienced the benefits of virtual learning, schools and colleges across the country are likely to make it a significant part of the education system, even after things return to normal.

Limitations

It is, however, unlikely that virtual learning will replace classroom-based learning and physical textbooks. For one, virtual methods cannot replicate the atmosphere of a physical classroom. Real-time teacher-to-student and student-to-student interactions in a physical setting are part of the learning experience. The spontaneity enables teachers to present the full scope of the subject being taught. Such an interaction is hardly possible when both teachers and students are physically apart and interacting from behind a computer or mobile phone screen.

A necessary precondition to access online modules and attend online classes is a reliable high-speed Internet connection, which every family may not be able to afford. High population density, and hence the high mobile phone density, also means that mobile Internet is often spotty, with data transfer speed less than ideal for live video conferencing and online group meetings. Moreover, accessing online class requires constant access to an Internet-enabled computer or device, which can be a challenge, especially for households with more than one school-going child.

The role of a teacher is not just about passing on information to students. Had that been the case, there are ample resources on the Internet that can make classrooms redundant. There is a clear preference for classroom-based learning over distance education. Textbooks play an important role in instituting a structured approach to information dissemination and retention by learners. A well-researched book, compiled and edited by scholars and subject experts to match various levels of learning, helps filter through material and deliver relevant information that will help students advance in their learning journey.

Remote learning is here to stay and, with the imposed acceleration in adoption, will play a bigger role in the education ecosystem. The use of digital tools and virtual learning can add much to the current classroom-based learning system and will complement it.

The writer is MD, MBD Group

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