E-learning in an era of social distancing

Schools are shut and students are home-bound. So, educational institutions, teachers and students are fast adopting e-learning methods.

Sporadic e-learning by way of Smart Classes and Connected/Virtual Learning was already in practice across private schools in metropolitan cities before the coronavirus became a pandemic.

Now, all learning is through e-learning. While many schools initially adopted a wait-and-watch approach, many of the more well-equipped institutions have now reopened their campuses virtually.

The relatively less tech-savvy or Internet-inadequate institutions set assignments that involve self-study and worksheets.

The more in-sync schools, which have the technology, teachers and a student-parent community that is both well-heeled and well-geared, are conducting daily classes through live online teaching using a slew of platforms from Microsoft to Google Hangouts and Zoom and Skype.

Their students do their entire schoolwork at home on computers.

Advantages Now that e-learning has been under way for several weeks, the advantages and disadvantages are clear.

The advantages include uninterrupted education for students and a clear path for schools to complete their curriculum.

Both students and teachers benefit from being constructively engaged for much of the day. If they are cooped up at home with nothing to do, that could lead to anxiety and depression. E-learning also ensures that teachers remain employed and paid.

It also ensures practice and orientation for a possibly new way of life that entails sporadic lockdowns and social distancing.

More importantly, it gives the young generation a chance to carry on with their lives and prepare for the future - which they would be unable to do if the education system grinds to a halt.

Disadvantages While e-learning has its merits, there is a flip side as well. Screen overload can be a problem in an e-learning landscape.

More than four hours in front of a computer screen listening, absorbing, learning and answering questions cannot possibly bode well for the brain or body.

Security could be a problem and privacy an issue. There is the risk of hackers stealing sensitive and private information about students and teachers.

Conferencing platforms in some countries like India, unfortunately, are still not of the same high standards as in the West. E-learning can be hampered by slow Internet speeds and erratic connectivity.

Nuances E-learning during the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light various issues that have to be studied carefully.

It is already clear that the e-learning experience is vastly different for different students. It depends on several variables such as Internet speed, infrastructure, teacher ability and screen-friendliness. So, not all students get the same experience.

For some it is great, for others it isn't. There are students who are naturally inclined and able to learn effectively through this method, while others cannot or are averse to it.

It is undeniable that e-learning has given scores of students a fighting chance to keep educating themselves in these unforeseen times of lockdown and social distancing.

However, there are many facets of this new education model that will need to be understood, improved, regularised and properly and fairly monetised.

Indo-Asian News Service

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