Tamil Nadu

Online courses are necessary, but no replacement for classrooms: teachers

The switch to e-learning during the lockdown has garnered a mixed reaction

If colleges were to go for online programmes then it would not be for the first time that students would be exposed to them. For several years now, the State’s Technical Education Department has been developing video lessons.

Hundreds of e-lectures on technical subjects besides Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics have been uploaded on YouTube in the past few years. These bilingual video lectures, where teachers use both Tamil and English, explain the concepts in conversational everyday language. Subject teachers have developed as many as 200 lectures on various engineering topics. According to the Directorate of Technical Education’s website, the e-lectures have 8.83 lakh subscribers.

Soon after the first lockdown in March, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) began preparing for online classes. Both bodies advised colleges to offer online lessons. Self-financing arts and science colleges and deemed universities began the process immediately. Private engineering colleges also started offering online courses. A Chennai-based deemed university offered its engineering students three sessions each day.

Poor connectivity

G. Sakthivel, a student of the engineering college at the university, said with the 2GB data plan on his phone he could not access every class. Also, the internet connectivity was poor at his house in Tiruverkadu.

“I have to go to the terrace to connect,” he said and added that he spent most of his time at a cousin’s house, whose family had a good internet connection. Some students in remote locations managed to access the internet, either by enhancing their phone data or by tethering their mobile to a sibling’s phone with better data access.

Teachers too have largely accepted the new norm of online classes, though they believed it was no replacement for face-to-face lessons. “In the beginning there may be unwillingness but once they understand the internet, using IT-based pedagogy, you can use the electronic facilities such as e-mail, social networking sites and even Skype. Students are participating in online quiz programmes already. It is the right time to launch online programmes,” said M. Selvaraj, former Principal of Guru Nanak College, who was now heading a twinning programme with Pondicherry University.

Teachers such as T. Veeramani believe there was potential but wondered how to keep students engaged. The general secretary of Tamil Nadu Government College Teachers Association, who has offered a few online classes, said: “But there is no replacement to in-person classroom experience. If a student is not attentive in class we can pull him/her up. That is not possible in an online class. I don’t know if the student is listening in,” he added.

Some college principals were more cautious. K. Sathyanarayana, Principal of Sindhi College, said e-lessons could be developed only if the teacher was proficient.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 9:54:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/online-courses-are-necessary-but-no-replacement-for-classrooms-teachers/article31936419.ece

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