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Coronavirus | In the time of the pandemic, classes go online and on air

Making a trade-off: Online learning may not have the same level of involvement as in the classroom.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

The long lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools, colleges and other educational institutions and ushered in the citywide classroom: tens of thousands of students in cities and towns are glued to computers and smartphone screens as teachers take to online apps for lectures, tutorials and assessments.

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e-learning poses a challenge to both teachers and students over technology and access, but it is keeping everyone busy with worksheets, video lectures and assignments.

Some institutions are uploading lectures to YouTube, while the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan is deploying its Swayam Prabha portal, which has lectures on DTH and online, to help students. Andhra Pradesh is trying to tap Doordarshan to remove access barriers. Some institutions have adopted the Zoom app, others Google Classroom. Yet, the instructors are unable to say how effective they are, and not every student is tuning in. Here is how the system has rolled out.

Chennai

At DAV Public School, Principal Minoo Aggarwal is keen that student interest in online classes offered as live teaching can be sustained only with a mix of activities, worksheets and interactive sessions. “It is unfair to expect the same level of concentration and involvement as in the classroom. Teachers should have a structured plan which does not suffocate or burden them,” she said.

Not all students might have laptops or tablet computers. “Since the whole family is at home, the only laptop or computer in the house might be used by the parents who are working from home as well.”

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While smartphones are the next best option, teachers are apprehensive about students using them earnestly because of distracting apps.

Teachers too might have technical constraints, said K.R. Maalathi, an education consultant. In a higher secondary school, teachers had requested for laptops to plan their curriculum.

“These teachers are equipped to take classes but the same might not be the case for other institutions. Going forward, all institutions will have to chalk out an infrastructure plan,” she said.

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In the face of such constraints, several schools have engaged coaching academies that have subject experts and a structured online curriculum for students taking board exams in the next academic year.

Mumbai

Parents in Mumbai are relieved that children are academically engaged online. “My daughter Tia is in 10th class, at Podar International School, and it is important that online classes are started. About the quality of education, it is too early to say,” said Ajay Raorane a marketing executive.

Most teachers find it difficult to cope with online teaching. Lack of familiarity with technology forces them to seek help from their children to set up apps and deal with technical glitches.

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Sudha Sharan, Headmistress, Gopal Sharma Memorial Sclool, Powai, said the Maharashtra State Board schedule is from June, but 10 days of revision and examination have already been lost. “To compensate, we are trying to use e-learning. The problems is that we do not have much technical help due to the lockdown. State Board schools are using trial and error methods to send worksheets and videos. But unlike the classroom we do not have 100% attendance,” she said.

Parents are finding it difficult to adjust to the online system of the children. Due to the lockdown, domestic help is not available adding to household work. Some parents say schools are going online only to justify charging the fees in April. Without text books for the new session, schools are sending study materials as terse WhatsApp messages.

Language teacher Meena Raut (name changed) was exasperated as “many parents could be heard talking in the background while the class is on. This is very distracting.” She said an entire domestic quarrel could be heard from a child’s home. “Some parents don’t use the mute button.”

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Managements have put off the last date for fee payment to May 31 and children of all classes have been promoted. Podar International School uses Google Hangouts.

New Delhi

Teachers in the national capital have been pushed out of their comfort zones.

“Teachers all over are struggling to make online learning work. It is important to just embrace this new reality and work within its limitations and use the opportunities,” said Naomi George, who teaches social studies and English to elementary and high school students at the Metro Delhi International School.

Teachers at the school alternate between prepared video and PowerPoint lessons and hosting live teaching via Google Classroom. Most teachers and students are digitally literate and savvy, but full-time distance education is still a new experience.

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“How children feel or what they are going through during this lockdown needs to be worked through, and teachers need to be considerate,” Ms. George said.

For educational institutions that are not so used to the digital world, the new reality can be more difficult. “We were caught off guard and did not foresee such a long lockdown, so we could not prepare our students for this,” said Anita Keskar, Deputy Director of the Women’s Training Institute, which provides vocational education to girls.

“Most of our subjects are very practical and hands on — beauty culture, fashion design and tailoring, office management, travel and tourism, web design — so it’s difficult to teach from a distance. How do you show a student how to cut and tailor a piece of cloth unless they are in front of you,” she asks. Only theory classes are being taught via Zoom for now.

The apex body of Kendriya Vidyalas, KVS, said the schedule of live and recorded lessons of the National Institute of Open Schooling for secondary and senior secondary levels, effective April 7, had been shared with schools for coordination between students, teachers and parents. Select teachers would clarify doubts via Skype and live web chat. NIOS also offers free DTH television channels, a YouTube channel and massive open online courses.

Hyderabad

Vivek Akki of Hyderabad Public School at Begumpet concentrates just like he does in his classroom when his favourite teacher appears on-screen. “The transformation is exciting as I can see all my classmates,” he says.

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HPS, Begumpet, a prominent school, has gone online. Vivek’s mother Parvati Akki said the Zoom app is used to livecast classes. “As parents this is a new experience for us,” she says. HPS, Ramanthapur Principal, Narsimha Reddy said the focus is on 10th and 12th classes. “We haven’t started online classes but are keeping students busy with assignments through video links from educational providers.”

At the Narayana group of schools, Sparshita Guda from Tarnaka, who is in 10th class said four daily classes are held via Zoom.

At some schools using Google Classroom, there is no live teaching, but students and teachers interact through video lessons. Sanjit Kaila, a 10th class student of DRS International School, Kompally said, “I get video lessons and assignments. ”

Veda, a 7th class student of Abhaya Waldroff School, Kompally said Google Classroom is also used to assess students’ performance. Students can also leave their comments for clarifications by teachers.

Vijayawada

The Andhra Pradesh State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) thinks online classes for all students would not be possible. The focus is therefore on 10th class. “We are trying to rope in Doordarshan to impart classes to our SSC students,” said B. Pratap Reddy, Director, APSCERT.

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In the private sector, KCP Siddhartha Adarsh Public School and St. John’s Public School send students videos of classroom lessons through WhatsApp. “We tried the online mode but gave up after realising that not all children have access to laptops,” said V. Sasikala, convenor of a group school in Vijayawada.

Thiruvananthapuram

In Kerala’s capital, Bindu Santhosh, who teaches Maths to class 12 students at Christ Nagar Higher Secondary School, Kowdiar, said the lockdown came in the way of training for teachers on using the Zoom app. Ms. Santhosh and class 12 Chemistry teacher Rekha P. reached out to students using Google Classroom.

The limitation is that students would have to type, write and scan doubts and then send them as a PDF file through the app.

Gayathri Rani M., the high school section head at Trivandrum International School, Edackode, and a history teacher, said Google Classroom was being used for grades 6 to 9 using the school connection. She also uses Edpuzzle to create interactive videos and embed questions.

Bengaluru

Lecturers in Bengaluru find attendance rates for online classes higher. “Attendance for online classes is even 90%, while for regular classes it is about 80%,” said K.R.Venugopal, Vice-Chancellor, Bangalore University.

Some lecturers said they were struggling with technology as students played music or ran audio clips of cookery classes during lectures.

(With inputs from

Priscilla Jebaraj,

S. Poorvaja,

R. Krishnamoorthy,

R. Ravikanth Reddy,

P. Sujatha Varma,

Tanu Kulkarni, Roshni R.K., Lalatendu Mishra, Gauri Vij)

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 5:57:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/in-the-time-of-the-pandemic-classes-go-online-and-on-air/article31264767.ece

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