Can online learning or e-learning replace traditional class room learning? This is the question uppermost in the minds of many people after the world witnessed during the pandemic the successful implementation of online teaching through video conferencing apps such as Zoom, Google Meet and Webex among others. Everyone discovered the efficiency and great convenience of online learning. It bridges distances, saves travel time, allows for recording of online classes for repetition and comes free most of the time. No wonder the academic world is witnessing multiple webinars day after day with participants from across the world. Famed speakers who were hard to get before are now spotted every other day addressing webinars. So has online education come to replace traditional learning altogether?
The answer simply is NO. Online digital platforms are at best systems that add vibrancy and thrill to the teaching-learning experience. They make education exciting. But they do not replace education methods at all. After all education from the Gurukul times to today is essentially a product of the long term two-way relationship between a teacher and a student. And this relationship just cannot be complete without the classroom. Online learning can add a welcome dimension to it – it can never serve as a replacement. Education simply cannot carry on without colleges, classrooms, play grounds, libraries, fun in the campus, student crowds and class mates / play mates. The young need a world which they can touch, smell and feel things in the settings where they learn and grow up. Schools and colleges provide them just that.
After all we must recall the old truth that man is a social animal. He needs to constantly be in touch with his fellow beings, be they parents, siblings, relatives, teachers or friends. Online companionship based on interactions through the internet is not real. After a certain stage, people need the real life presence of teachers and friends, of people whom they can feel, touch and talk too.
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We must also remember that education is not only about garnering facts, learning skills and passing examinations. The process is far more diverse and complex. The class room sessions, the college events, the relationship with teachers and fellow students, the daily commuting to and from college all constitute the larger process through which a student attains maturity and acquaintance with the real world.
Indeed there are significant non-verbal elements in the education process. They can never be replaced unless human beings desire to become robots.