In the time of this global pandemic, every sector has been adversely affected, be it business or service. The education sector is one such sector that has crumbled to a great extent. Schools, universities and other educational institutes were the first to shut down keeping in mind the safety of the students. Since then, a big number of issues and questions have arisen with respect to the future of academia.
Many educational institutes have converted their short term courses into online distant learning courses. While this can be seen as an excellent measure to keep the flow of learning in check in these difficult times, a lot of students are not content with this approach since they believe it is unfair for the organization to charge them the same amount for an online course as they did for a regular on-campus course. Not to mention, the difference in the quality of a distant learning program and an on-campus course.
Many educational institutes have come up with temporary online classes for their students. These online classes have actually been an aid for many. This is helpful as it lessens the pressure of keeping up with the syllabus which would have been a burden to cope up with when the schools and universities reopen and resume with regular learning since semester examination would be near.
Moreover, it is time-efficient. With hours of travelling saved, time can be utilized to enrol in various other online courses for skill development. This digital medium of instruction is a new experience for many, moving online is not only curbing the spread of the disease but also turning out to be a learning experience for the masses when it comes to using advanced technology for education. Zoom, Google Classroom, Skype and numerous such platforms have made learning easy in this challenging time.
However, the online mode of education is not all roses, it comes with its own hurdles. One major problem with this online learning is the varying offline environment. All people coming from typical Indian families can relate to this. One can hear the distant ‘Om’ chanting of their grandparents, their fathers watching WhatsApp videos on full volume and their mothers walking into their online classes with fruit, every five minutes. Moreover, the poor internet connectivity with a constant disturbance on the line, no proper way to ensure the actual presence of students in the classes or lack of honest, cheating free testing methods, not to mention the strain on eyes we are putting by making use of visual technology for a major part of the day are other unignorable issues.
Another challenge that the educational institutes are facing while offering online education is the disembodiment of voices. Two students switching off their cameras creates a domino effect and suddenly no one has their camera on for the teacher to have a healthy video interaction with, as a result, the teacher has to talk to random, faceless voices. Switching the camera on or off is a personal choice for the students. It up to them if they or want their peers to see their family members walk into their classes or want to show their homes, it completely a matter of privacy that cannot be challenged.
Moreover, the viability of online education is put to question when it comes to teaching subjects like mathematics, dance, and painting. Also, the experimental learning in science and practice of fine arts is when learning is put to a full stop. Besides this, the senior students who have had virtual graduations this year, even if we completely ignore the loss of emotional investment in these graduation ceremonies, the fact that many of the overseas students who had to go back to their homes in their native lands, could not apply for an optional work ex visa or campus placements in some cases, is a huge loss which can’t be ignored.
With much contemplation over the current scenario of education, only time will tell the future of academia. One can only try to remain positive and make the best use of all the available resources.