With schools and colleges shutting down due to the Covid-19 led lockdown, teachers and parents are worried about academics and loss of time in terms of learning that students will face. This may be the biggest disruption that education has ever witnessed where leading educational institutes are adapting newer technologies to facilitate learning.
Edtech – A Boon For Education
Edtech has definitely proven to be a saviour for students in these tough times. Any student who has access to a smartphone and a broadband connection can acquire a vast amount of content available online.
There are many free and paid online education resources and videos available that are easily accessible on sites such as Youtube. Additionally, advanced courses can be accessed from MOOC websites and platforms that are now making its courses free for students. The Indian government’s initiative Swayam, also offers free courses on its platform.
Hurdles To Democratising Education
However, in a country like India, replacing classroom learning with online education may prove to be more difficult than it sounds. The adoption of online learning is riddled with major hindrances. The first and foremost is the lack of good internet connectivity in India’s hinterlands, making it difficult for the lesser privileged rural population to access online education.
Students in these areas can access education videos via DVDs or pen drives; however, that depends on whether these children have access to tools such as smartphones, computers and players that are required to make these resources work, and a reliable electricity connection.
Another impediment is that a majority of online education is available in the English language, which only 10% of India’s population understand. It is imperative to have more educational content available in vernacular languages.
From a hiring and employment perspective, online degrees may not be beneficial to students as many employers do not consider online degrees credible for entry-level job hiring. Students still need to go to colleges with physical classrooms to be taken seriously by recruiters.
Government As A Stakeholder
The government can help overcome these hindrances and promote online education through various initiatives. In addition to the Swayam portal mentioned earlier, it can fund the development of online vernacular courses from school to college levels.
Ensuring the availability of a good internet connection and laptops for every government school will provide every student with an equal chance to avail quality education. This can also be done for budget private schools.
Private-public partnerships can also help in creating the infrastructure and services required to democratise education further. The government can publicise the use of online education to many of those that might be unaware that these resources exist.
The various tools used in online education such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality and gamification can help enhance the learning experience and have emerged as a boon for educators and students alike. The use of these innovations cannot be ignored, and educational institutions must inculcate the same in its curriculum moving forward for the benefit of its students.
However, despite the innovations currently witnessed in the edtech space, nothing beats the benefits a child gets from attending a regular school classroom. The development of social skills takes place via interactions with their classmates and teachers.
Also, their facial expressions and tone of voice while responding to questions, allows an empathetic teacher to understand their learning needs better. Elearning can provide itself as a comparable supplement to face-to-face classes in current times, but cannot replace physical classrooms as a long term solution. The only way forward is an amalgamation of the two modules, a blend that combines the best of both worlds to propel education in the right direction.