This article is written by Shikha Pokhriyal, from Delhi Metropolitan Education, GGSIPU. This article talks about the new normal in the education sector that is the popularity of online learning and the challenges faced by people in this new normal.
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More than a year has passed since the first lockdown was announced in the country due to a novel coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic forced every office, institution, shop, malls, restaurants, schools, and colleges to shut down. Everyone in this pandemic suffered losses in one way or another be it the loss in monetary terms or life loss. The one loss in this pandemic was offline education. The pandemic turned the whole education sector into online mode. Before the year 2020, did we ever imagine not going to school or colleges and still be able to study or give exams from the comfort of our homes?
In this one year, the whole system of education has changed, it is now the one that we never even imagined can happen. Online education in these difficult times saved the loss of education. Also, online learning saved the jobs of people in the profession of teaching. This big change from offline education to online education was difficult for students as well as for the teachers to cope up with as this pandemic surrounded us with bad news and negativity. But still, in these harsh times, online learning proved itself as an efficient tool.
In this article, we will explore this new normal of online education in-depth and the problems faced by students and teachers adapting to this new normal.
Online learning – the new normal
As the coronavirus keeps on fluctuating online learning is the only way to help the students save their precious years of education in schools and colleges. This online learning is now considered a new normal. The system of old education has changed drastically. Now the students do not learn in the classrooms but the comfort of their homes. The use of technology was always increasing and was benefitting a lot of various sectors but since the last year of 2020, upgraded technology has been a saviour.
The use of the internet made all this online learning possible. When the coronavirus pandemic started last year, everyone was worried about how the students will continue to study? Will this pandemic make millions of students deprived of the basic fundamental right to education? The schools and colleges decided to shift to online classes to help the students complete their academic years. Initially, the education institutions adopted online learning as a temporary measure.
Everyone hoped that things would return to normal after a while, like maybe after a month or so. The old normal of going to schools and colleges. But little did anyone know that returning to classrooms to study and to interact with teachers personally is not gonna happen for a while now and we still do not know. Due to the pandemic students as well as the teachers are scattered across different cities and countries. Returning to classrooms in these distressed times seems like a challenge to the people who are not even living in the respective cities. Online education is a key to education that helps students to engage in their studies by staying safe at their homes.
Online learning needs a proper internet connection and telecom sectors introduced various plans of the internet that are economical and easily available. Online learning is more engaging because of online classes that happen daily. The concept of an online class timetable enabled educational sectors to complete their syllabus on time keeping in mind that it is essential for a student to take classes daily for their better understanding and to keep them engaged in the academic activities. The online classes happen on online applications like Zoom and Google Meet.
These applications were made more flexible so that they can be used by the various sectors to accomplish their work goals. Features like a large number of invites can be sent to join the meetings and to join these meetings there were no monetary terms and conditions that made these applications so popular among all the people. Educational institutions use these online applications to engage with the students. This change was difficult to adapt but teachers and students with the cooperation of each other successfully adapted to this new normal. From completing the syllabus online to conducting exams, the education sector helped the student to complete their academic year.
Online education gave rise to an increase in the online platforms of learning. Online platforms like Byjus, Unacademy, and others grabbed the attention of parents. In these covid times, it became difficult for the parents to send their kids to tuition or extra classes and the parents were already balancing their work life and house chores. These online platforms played the role of extra classes by providing classes of different subjects balancing the timing with the school’s online classes. These online learning platforms provide all the content and help the students to make learning easy for them. Like making videos on the subject topics, conducting quizzes or tests, helping students to study without pressuring them, and promoting healthy competition.
This system of online learning helped students to learn by staying at their homes safe and following the routine of school. This online learning is now so popular among students that they enjoy learning according to their convenience. This online learning helped the students who used to hesitate in class to ask questions personally, but now with this, they feel free and confident to indulge in communication without feeling shy or insecure. Teachers on the other hand were able to keep up their job with the help of online education. If this online learning would not have started many people in the profession of teaching would have been unemployed and being so educated they were not able to provide for their families. Teachers in these distressed times provided the students with all the notes online. After a year now, students and teachers both have adapted to this new normal.
Problems faced in online education by teachers and students
The education sector was not ready for online education at all. The schools and the teachers faced many problems in conducting all these online classes. Online learning came as a saviour but with many issues. In India, if schools and colleges in urban areas face difficulty balancing studies, just think about what rural or backward areas are going through? In the areas where mere electricity is hard to get, how will a person be able to get a secure internet connection?
“Am I audible? Am I visible? Can you see the screen I shared? I cannot attend or take the class today because of bad connectivity issues.” These are the common dialogues now, on which our whole academic career is dependent. The challenges all the stakeholders of the education sector face while conducting online classes are numerous and these challenges overshadow the benefits of online learning sometimes. For the people who have been using mobile phones and laptops daily, it is no task for them to take online classes and understand all these new features. But many people do even have access to smartphones and for them to use these new applications to take classes while managing to secure a good network is difficult.
Challenges faced by teachers
All the people involved in the profession of teaching are not tech geniuses. Teachers are facing a difficult time in delivering education through these online applications due to network issues, operative issues, and many others. All the teachers are not taught to operate these applications in their courses. Many people do not even have access to laptops to prepare notes for the students. While conducting online classes there is so much disturbance and chaos sometimes that the students create for fun, like inviting their friends to create a disturbance. Also, there is an additional burden from the schools and institutions to cover up the syllabus on time and follow all the internal assessments. Many teachers are old and not so fast in learning all these features for them conducting classes online while maintaining the decorum of class becomes a task. In these covid times, the work of teachers is doubled.
Many teachers are not fluent in the English language and for them to make all the notes on a laptop and simultaneously deliver classes through the online platform is the biggest task. The teachers cannot leave their work and if they do not abide by the rules and regulations of their respective schools or colleges, then they will not pay their salaries. Working online seems like the only option in the times of coronavirus. But now after a year, teachers are getting used to this pattern as they do not have any option but to follow up with the trend.
According to the EssayPro, teachers just need time to adapt and learn new technological aspects.
Increase in screen time
Online learning has increased the time that a student spends on their laptops or mobile phones. Before coronavirus, students used to use their mobile phones or laptops just for entertainment, and then parents used to say “do not use mobile phones this much, there is nothing in it, go and study” but now all the exams, assignments are done through these gadgets. This has given rise to screen time that is not good for the eyes and because of this many people often suffer from headaches, strain, and get more tired.
Very flexible and informal
The system of conducting online classes is very flexible and convenient for the students as well as for the teachers. The teachers are unable to grab the focus of students while teaching, the students are now not afraid of teachers. The students are taking their classes from the comfort of their home and because of this the seriousness to attend classes is decreasing. They are attending the classes with their families where the teachers feel they are constantly being judged by them and also the families make excuses or instead of making their kids disciplined they sometimes take their sides when the teacher complains. For the students, this online education is like a dream come true, no punishments, no scoldings, no going to school, and if they do not feel like to attend any lecture they skip it according to their convenience by making the excuse like “ ma’am there was a connectivity issue”
Giving exams online by staying home is another dream that a student can wish for, they can turn off their videos and say no network and can complete the test with the help. The seriousness and sincerity to study have gone missing in this era of online learning.
Network issues and availability of sufficient resources
Now let’s focus on the most favourite issue that everyone faces while attending classes or meetings, the network issue. Everyone is not well equipped with the resources like laptops, smartphones, wifi, or internet plans to attend classes one needs all these resources. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the people who were living in the urban area have gone back to their native places, where maybe there is a problem with the network. The students, as well as teachers, are scattered around in cities. Every person is not that financially secure to afford all these things. In these difficult times, a mere right to education has become so difficult to attain. The students living in the urban areas and who are financially doing well are lucky to have all these things to study. But some students live in backward areas or villages where online education cannot become possible. The parents do not have money to spend on laptops or smartphones and even if they do then there is an additional cost of internet. Some families still hesitate to send their girls to school because of financial constraints, for these girls taking online classes has become so tough.
Lack of personal touch
The most important feature of offline classes that everyone misses is going to schools or colleges to attend classes, engage in conversation with teachers and other fellow mates. The teachers always prefer teaching their students in person, as no method of teaching can substitute this one. In-person, a teacher can read the faces of their students and figure out whether they are paying attention or not. Also, the healthy debates among the student-teachers in the classroom is an interesting way to understand a topic.
The students miss those mornings when they used to rush out just to attend a lecture on time and meet their friends. Going out to school or to colleges to study is just a secondary concern; the main thing that a student misses is hanging out with their friends. Any difficult topic seems easy when a friend teaches. In an online class, a student is not able to focus because they are alone in the room sitting on the chair and staring at the screen of laptops and just like that their school ends. This is the prime reason why a student is not able to concentrate in online classes.
Reflection of new normal on college students and graduates
We do hear this one saying from our elders that ‘school years and college years are the most precious years of one’s life.’ When a student enters college they explore several things, they come out of their comfort zone and try to socialize. In college, every person gets the independence to go out, attend lectures or not attend lectures and explore many other things apart from studies. The coronavirus pandemic just like pausing all the activities forced the students to sit at their homes and attend online classes. In this pandemic, many students graduated and attended their farewell on laptops. They completed their degree just by sitting at home without gaining any experience in the final years. The scariest thing out of all this is that right now the economy of the country is already suffering big losses and therefore there is no job availability.
The graduates right now have no idea what to do and how to get the job they always wanted. The students who entered college, do not even know how it feels like to go to college and experience all that freedom. These first-year students are not even aware of who is in their class. The challenges for the students in colleges are a lot. But online learning helped the students to complete their graduation without compromising their health. The colleges tried in their best capacity to provide the students with the notes and all other material. Now the cases of coronavirus are coming down, so hopefully, students will be able to go to colleges if the government allows based on the fact that how many students, as well as teachers, got vaccinated.
The pandemic changed the education system all around the world drastically. Online learning was there before the pandemic but it gained importance and popularity during the covid. Online learning helped the students to complete their academic years. Without it, the students would have suffered a lot of academic loss. Also, without online education, many people would have been left jobless. Online learning is the new normal now and it will continue even after everything opens up. There are many challenges while conducting classes online but if the government and other associations ensure that every student has sufficient resources then this system of education will truly help every student.
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