A student's perspective on online education: COVID-19 may have changed the 'classroom', but learning continues
A little over two months since our online classes commenced, they have already become an important part of our daily lives.
Among the many casualties of the coronavirus crisis is the traditional classroom. While online courses have existed since long before the pandemic, they served a different purpose, giving learners access to modules and subjects they wouldn’t have otherwise, or supplementing what individuals were being taught in physical classrooms. The lockdown in India (and shutdowns in other parts of the world), however, have made online classrooms the primary source of educational instruction for students of all ages.
I’m a Class Nine student of Podar International School in Mumbai; my school too commenced online classes post-lockdown. We had some teething problems to begin with: students encountered some difficulty in joining the “class”, or when classmates forgot to switch off their microphones during a session, we’d hear all manner of background sounds — younger siblings shouting, someone singing etc. But over time, as we all got used to the online video classes, things started working beautifully. Our teachers made lessons engaging by replacing the chalkboard with PowerPoint presentations. A little over two months since our online classes commenced, they have already become an important part of our daily lives.
With a view to assess how my peers felt about online lessons, I conducted a small survey, with a sample size of 85 students. Here’s what I found:
About 50 percent of the students liked the online mode of education, as against 32 percent who did not like it. Others were not sure.
About 53 percent of the students felt that online education helped them improve their time management.
However, more than 80 percent of the students found classroom teaching a more convenient and interactive way of learning.
Almost two thirds of the students believed that online education leads to lack of discipline. In classrooms, the teacher is physically present so students tend to be more disciplined. In online classes the students need to work on developing self-discipline for a better teaching-learning experience.
Almost 66 percent of the students also concluded that online education comes at the cost of reduction in interaction and social networking.
About 58 percent indicated preference for classroom teaching for better monitoring of progress.
My peers said they appreciated online education but as the weeks went by, they had started to miss their friends, the chance to share tiffin with them, and play pranks. These were moments of school life that they cherished and did not want to miss out on (any more).
Given this, it was small surprise that overall, almost 80 percent of the students preferred classroom education to online lessons.
No doubt, online education has certain features that perhaps a traditional classroom set-up does not. Our teachers enhanced the experience for us by making full use of the digital medium. In our case, assessments have become more frequent, which means instructors can track each student’s progress and intervene as needed. At the same time, the online mode of instruction also allows each student to work at his/her own pace. Greater (and improved) access to instructors and classmates via online chat, and less likelihood of outside scheduling conflicts can contribute to elevating the educational experience.
During this lockdown, online classes have imposed a disciplined structure on our daily lives. Classes start at 8 am and end by 1 pm. Each period lasts about 45 minutes, and we get a 15-minute break before the next one on the timetable. We weren’t required to wear our uniforms (which made us quite happy) and the sessions were quite interactive, with live discussions. However our screen time has increased, which means that we need to cut back on some of the time we’d have spent on video games, television or our smartphones.
With no set date for a return to our physical classrooms, it’s up to us to make the best use of online learning, be it by participating in educational webinars or live competitions, workshops and other sessions meant for the benefit of the student fraternity. Global online webinars, competitions can help students to get more exposure at this stage. For instance, I could recently participate in a global online hackathon conducted by a school in California; since it was online, I could collaborate with people across the world in a much more in-depth manner than would otherwise have been possible.
Learning online is different from learning in a face-to-face setting, and as a student, it is important to think about your interests, needs and goals before committing yourself to the virtual classroom experience. Several factors come into play, such as the time you have at your disposal, your comfort level with and access to technology, high-speed internet, the platform being used by your institution etc. The pandemic has shown us that online learning is going to be part of our reality, now it’s up to students to seek out new opportunities through it.
Rishabh is a Class Nine student of Podar International School, Powai, Mumbai
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