What shape will college education assume after the Covid 19 pandemic? This is the question uppermost in the minds of students, guardians and everyone with an interest in education and academics. It’s more than three months since schools, colleges and universities have remained closed due to the lockdown imposed by the government on account of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Board and university examinations have been rescheduled more than once and no one seems certain when normal school and college curriculum will resume. The West Bengal government for instance had announced closure of all educational institutions till June 30. In a recent announcement the closure date has been extended to the whole of July.
The most significant development during the lockdown is the large scale adoption of technology to substitute real live classes with introduction of online video conferencing classes using a wide variety of video conferencing apps. After initial teething problems teachers and students have learnt to their delight that in the current age on line classes through web based digital platforms is not difficult at all. Even those who were technologically not savvy suddenly realized the wonders of modern day digital technology offers and how user friendly it is.
First the leading elite educational institutions took the initiative to introduce online classes. Gradually other schools followed and before long even neighborhood kindergarten school joined the online teaching bandwagon.
Online classes are being held in broadly two modes. One is through live video conferencing using web based apps such as Zoom, Google Meet, Jitsi and Webex. Some schools however preferred mailing links of recorded videos on platforms such as YouTube which students could view at their own convenient time and repeatedly if required. One disadvantage of the second mode was the absence of the feeling of being in class or in a group with the teacher. The student is not in a position to ask questions to the teacher. However in the offline mode, the student could repeat a video a number of times to understand a problem.
The live online mode provided the collective feeling of being in class – albeit a virtual class room. However this mode has its disadvantages too. Network condition has been a major issue. With every institution and office shifting to online mode, the stress on internet resources has been quite heavy, especially since no one quite expected the lockdown and prolonged suspension of classes. Often the network would snap and students living in remote areas would find it difficult to access the online classes due to poor internet network support. One thing has been made quite clear from this online teaching experience. The country must boost is internet infrastructure and resources in order to make online teaching a more usable option.
Errand students were up to new class bunking tricks like keeping the device on and skipping class! Or sometimes claiming network problems to avoid online tests!
Every new mode of life brings its set of advantages and disadvantages, There is little doubt that even after normalcy is restored after the lockdown, real live class room teaching would be supplemented by the occasional online class. Clearly the digital class room is soon becoming a reality. This is the biggest realization that online schooling during the lockdown has given us.