Is online learning in schools/colleges a new normal?

Subject wise insight for UPSC civil service exam (Prelims and mains)

Mains GS2 – Education / Mains Essay Paper

Introduction

This essay contains a description of interventions related to e-learning undertaken by various digital modes in India. It further provides the descriptions of all activities, programs and interventions of e-learning in this modern era. As safety is the primary concern, schools, colleges and institutions have been closed as per the guidelines for COVID-19. But, time and tide waits for none. Students shouldn’t postpone their learning process. E-learning is the only way to help students to keep updated during the lockdown period. Online classes become a new normal as it is one of the impacts of COVD-19. This virus makes the online classes go viral. The Government of India has ordered the schools and colleges to conduct online classes for students to continue their studies. Online teaching is both supported and criticized by the people. Before analyzing about online education, it is mandatory to know about the evolution of education in Indian history. Starting from Gurukul method to present, it has undergone various transformations.

History of India’s Education System

The Indian education system started in the form of ashrams (gurukul) in temples and as indigenous schools. During the medieval period, maktabas and madrassas became part of the education system. During the pre-colonial period, indigenous education flourished in India. This system was a mostly religious and spiritual form of education. Local resources via donations supported education. Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay brought the modern school system in India in the 1830s. The present education system in India mainly comprises of primary education, secondary education, senior secondary education and higher education. References in texts and memoirs in the form depict that villagers also supported education in southern India.

The ancient education system of India focused on the holistic development of the students, both inner and outer self, thus preparing them for life. Education was free and gurudhakshana was optional. In ancient times, education was provided based on the caste system. After the spread of Buddhism, education became accessible to everyone in India and this period contributed excellent schools like Nalanda University.

The online class is normal in India but not so popular before the pandemic. During this pandemic stage, teachers and students realized the importance of online classes. Let us see how online learning creates an impact in the world nowadays.

E-Learning

Learning with the help of electronic gadgets and the internet is called e-learning. The use of computers and the internet form a major component of e-learning. It can also be termed as a network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge and the delivery of education is made to a large number of recipients at the same or different times. Earlier, it was not accepted wholeheartedly as it was assumed that this system lacked the human element required in learning.

However, with the rapid progress in technology and the advancement in learning systems, it is now embraced by the schools and colleges. The introduction of computers was the basis of this revolution and with the passage of time, as we get hooked to smartphones, tablets, etc, these devices now have an important place in the classrooms for learning. Books are gradually getting replaced by electronic educational materials like optical discs or pen drives. Knowledge can also be shared via the Internet, which is accessible 24/7, anywhere, anytime.

The online class is a new way for teachers and students to enter academics. Some online tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft teams are recommended by the teachers. It is a very new concept even for sophisticated schools because we valued the school environment more than homeschooling. Due to the pandemic, virtual classrooms are highly encouraged by the teachers as they cut down the obstacles like distance, cost and timing. India, a developing country, while facing the pandemic on one hand, it also concentrates on the education of the students on the other hand. Let us see about India’s contribution to the online classes.

Online classes in India

India is constantly working towards educational reforms aiming to make India a global knowledge superpower. Over the last few years, digital technology has played a vital role in helping transform the education sector and its positive impact is being faced by students, teachers and parents alike. In the mix of an unprecedented global crisis, India sees this challenging time as an opportunity to find innovative ways to effectively deal with the arising challenges. The education sector exemplifies how technology is playing the role of a force multiplier as various e-learning initiatives have helped in imparting education to students throughout the country.

Information and Communication Technology in Schools

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Schools Scheme was launched to provide opportunities to secondary stage students to mainly build their capacity on ICT skills and make them learn through the computer-aided learning process. You can find detailed information on this scheme, its objectives, financial assistance, coverage, etc.

Colleges/Universities in India

For the first time, the Government of India is allowing universities to offer fully online degrees, which could reshape education delivery in the country. Colleges nowadays use LMS (Learning Management Systems) such as Moodle, Blackboard, or similar software as a replacement for classes. To concern about the quality and limited mechanism for oversight and regulation, Indian universities and colleges were not permitted to offer more than 20% of a degree online for many years. At the launch of India’s 2020-21 budget last month, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about the need to make India’s young people more employable through better higher education opportunities.

E-Portals in India

The Indian government has allotted several e-portals and apps to promote e-learning. They are as follows

E-pathshala

ePathshala – Apps on Google Play

E-pathshala has been developed by NCERT for showcasing and disseminating all educational e-resources including textbooks, audio, video, periodicals and a variety of other print and non-print materials through the website and mobile app. The platform addresses the dual challenge of reaching out to a diverse clientele and bridging the digital divide (geographical, socio-cultural and linguistic), offering a comparable quality of e-contents and ensuring its free access at every time and every place. All the concerned stakeholders such as students, teachers, educators and parents can access e-books through multiple technology platforms i.e. mobile phones (android, ios and windows platforms), and tablets (as e-pub) and on the web through laptops and desktops (as flipbooks).

DIKSHA

DIKSHA - National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers | National ...

It is built on open-source technology, made in India and made for India, which incorporates internet-scale technologies and enables several use-cases and solutions for teaching and learning. DIKSHA is built using MIT licensed open source technology called Sunbird, which is a digital infrastructure for learning and is designed to support multiple languages and solutions. DIKSHA is available for the use of all states and union territories of India. Each state/union territory leverages the DIKSHA platform in its way, as it has the freedom and choice to use the varied capabilities and solutions of the platform to design and run programs for their teachers and learners.

SWAYAM
Swayam-logo
Swayam program in e learning

SWAYAM is a programme initiated by the Government of India and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality. It is a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) initiative on a national platform with a comprehensive academic structure. The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching-learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged. The integrated platform will offer courses covering engineering, humanities and social sciences etc., to be used by learners at large. SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.

NPTEL
NPTEL-Logo
NPTEL in online learning

The National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) was initiated by seven Indian Institutes of Technology (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Guwahati and Roorkee) along with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 2003. Five core courses were identified, namely, civil engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and communication engineering and mechanical engineering and 235 courses in web/video format were developed in this phase. Several improvements such as indexing of all video and web courses and keyword search were implemented.

Some highlights of NPTEL:
  • Largest online repository in the world of courses in engineering, basic sciences and selected humanities and social sciences subjects
  • Youtube channel for NPTEL – most subscribed educational channel, 1.6 million+ channel subscribers, 900 million+ views
  • More than 56000 hours of video content
  • Most accessed library of peer-reviewed educational content in the world
  • 52000+ hours of transcribed content; 51000+ hours of subtitled videos

Methods of online teaching in India

  • Online classes through apps like Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft teams
  • Scheduled shifts
  • Sending photos and Youtube or recorded videos to students through Whatsapp
  • Receiving homework through mail

Merits of online classes:

  • Online learning helps every student to learn and work in their way.
  • They can attend a course at any time and from anywhere in the world with internet access.
  • Working students can attend classes no matter what their work schedule might be.
  • Students are virtually connected with their friends and classmates and it develops hope and confidence during the pandemic situation.
  • Students, those who hesitate to ask doubts, can ask questions more freely in online classes.
  • Students have the flexibility to read, discuss, explain and comment about the subject online without any disturbance.
  • The online instructor comes with practical knowledge and may be from any location across the globe, which allows students gain a different experience and to be exposed to knowledge that can’t be learned in books.
  • It enables them to overcome geographical limitations. The students can learn in their places.

Demerits of online classes:

  • There will be no relationship between teachers and students. It may feel like ‘merely watching a video’
  • Internet packages and modern teaching boards are so costly.
  • Slow internet speed is the biggest challenge to online learning.
  • Classroom interaction among the students is missing.
  • Students require smartphones or laptops for e-learning which is not afforded for everyone. Several students committed suicide due to the unavailability of a computer or a mobile phone.
  • The concept cannot be understood without the help of instruction.
  • Evaluation and assessment are difficult in e-learning.
  • It is difficult for students to do homework and it is simultaneously difficult for teachers to correct homework as it involves sitting before monitor or laptop or mobile screens which causes so much eye fatigue and headaches.
  • Online learning may create unhealthy graduates because they lack practical knowledge.

Conclusion

E-learning is not just a change in technology. It is part of a redefinition of how we as a species transmit knowledge, skills, and values to younger generations of workers and students. Thus, e-learning should be enhanced and encouraged in a safe and sustainable manner.