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Virtual classes amid COVID-19 pandemic: A learning experience and a new normal
At a very young age, I studied in a chapter that in future, there will be no real classes and children will learn through virtual classes with the help of electronic gadgets. This is really coming true now. Today, this thought made me pen down about virtual classes which are being taken by different schools nowadays due to this COVID-19 pandemic.
With no option to sit in a ‘traditional’ classroom and conduct the regular classes, schools are opting for virtual classes since past few weeks. While, till very recently, we were suggesting the children not to use mobile phones for long, the parents are now forced to hand over their smartphones to their children for them to attend the online classes.
We must thank our fortunes that we have the mobile phones and the internet which made the virtual classes possible. Else, children would have been left to fend for themselves as we are still uncertain when the ‘traditional’ classes will begin.
For some, it was just a trial-and-error method during the initial phases of online classes. But with the progress of time, it seems both the teachers and students got acquainted with the virtual classes.
COVID-19 pandemic has given a big boost to e-learning. However, there are various challenges which needed to be streamlined. Some of the subjects are simply not suitable for e-learning to replace regular classrooms. The quality of the module also varies as they are not often tested for e-learning. And quite a few times, some of the more educated parents were better able to support their children. As per a Society for Community Organisation report, poor internet connection is a major problem that is faced by most number of students. Even those who overcome these obstacles cannot always unlock online opportunities without extra help.
But this does not mean a failure of this learning experiment. We need to adapt to work better online, even when classrooms are open. Early childhood instructions have to be grounded in core numeracy and motor literacy and it’s true; plenty of motor skills are best taught in-person, but online options can encourage more independent, problem-based learning, where children solve challenges themselves.
For primary students, digital classrooms have made parents more involved with their kids. Even teachers need time to adapt to digital learning as the concept need visual aids and innovative ideas to make primary school children understand topics. This pandemic has brought about a great twist in the Indian education system and more likely to remain continued in future also in the midst of disasters etc.
Although e-learning was existent in India before the pandemic as well, classroom learning continued to be predominantly the primary source of education. Now with the outbreak of Coronavirus, educational institutes in India are compelled to adapt to this new way of imparting and receiving knowledge. Video chatting platforms like Zoom, Google Duo, Hangouts, Google Meet, Skype etc. are making it easier for teachers to conduct virtual classes.
Today’s children are the future of this country. They should not be forced to go to school until and unless this pandemic situation gets over. We all have to learn to adapt ourselves to the new education system of virtual classes for their safety. I believe, in due course of time, some new and better opportunities will evolve in the conduct of virtual classes.
As it is said, ‘Rome was not built in a day, so at this is just the initial stage of the virtual classes, there may have some lags, loopholes and challenges; but most expectantly, we all will be able to adapt to the new situation and come out with flying colours with a solution for those students in unfortunate situations and who are in schools that are not well funded. The government should make extra efforts to support the education sector and build solidarity among schools by facilitating networks between various schools to share experiences and study methodologies for online teaching.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue, presenting challenges beyond those that come up in the course of routine virtual education. Even if this spread of COVID-19 subsides, or a vaccination becomes readily available, the shift from online classes back to in-person learning may create disruptions of its own – adjusting back to higher standards of accountability, weaning off of phone checking habits and transferring comments back to hard copies instead of digital notes.
Hopefully, these phases of trouble shooting can provide universities, professors, schools, teachers and students the opportunity to practice adaptability, patience and resilience. And hopefully, experiences will serve as preparation for future challenges that come with the next epidemic, pandemic and other disasters.
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