Rayees Masroor writes about how online lessons provided during COVID-19 pandemic could revamp the entire education system

Amid complete lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the world have closed their doors, leaving 1.5 billion children around the world stuck at home. It is good to see doors of learning being opened through e-learning or online education using various digital platforms. To keep the students interested and engaged, the School Education Department in Jammu Kashmir has done a commendable job by ensuring online lectures and study material to the students who otherwise could have been demotivated and depressed amid the coronavirus crisis.

This rebooting of learning during this pandemic has not only thrown a challenge to all the concerned people including students and teachers but also created an opportunity for all the stakeholders to equip themselves with the modern modes and methods of propagation and dissemination of knowledge.
Ideally, it sounds good to just imagine students getting online and offline classes through various learning platforms including Zoom meetings, YouTube and Google Classroom but there are several challenges in the way of making it a big success.

A large population in J&K and all over India is poor and as such, all the students are not in a position to buy smartphones or laptops to ensure their access to online education.
There is no doubt about the capabilities and dedication of teachers in Jammu Kashmir but it’s also a reality that a large number of teachers are not enough tech-savvy to reboot their way of teaching. The J&K government and the Department of Education should supplement the current initiative of online learning by providing training to teachers to upgrade their potential and innovative teaching skills. Every educational institution should be equipped with modern technology and smart classrooms.

The online education and learning post- COVID-19 can attract many students from rural areas and townships who are unable to pay for their tuition, residence fees, and other requirements necessary for their studies and that would eventually reduce the number of OOSC (out of school children) and ensure ‘mystification of education’. For the time being, the initiative taken by the School Education Department is the only way of dealing with the problem and it’s the responsibility of all stakeholders including teachers, civil society, and the media fraternity to play their role in ensuring maximum participation of students to online classes available across many learning platforms.

So far, not only in J&K but all over the world, the virus outbreak has increased the appreciation for online education. This could be a turning point in changing their habits in terms of how kids learn and how teachers teach. Many people think that the current school closures will not only boost online learning but help reset the entire education system, with less emphasis on preparing for exams.
In the traditional system of learning, students just memorize, replicate, and then forget when the exam is over. Online learning would enable personalized lesson formats as well as a more engaging, interactive learning process. It allows the potential of individualised learning and even offers the prospects of significantly changing a system that has remained static and not evolved over the years. It could also act as a tool for democratization of education which means that knowledge and online education is now available to all the students residing in small towns and rural areas.

Many learning platforms like Unacademy, Vedantu and Toppr are offering free classes and content to students. The belief is that the free service would be only a temporary revenue hit but a long term benefit to the business because once the educational institutions re-open, it would be a revamped system altogether. The most difficult obstacle, however, remains the fact that still a large number of children are unable to access online learning through a laptop or cell phone and there is a long way to go. It would be only fascinating to see the progress of e-learning post the pandemic. The bottom line is very clear that the promotion of online education and learning has more benefits but many challenges. One can hope that the challenges are overcome and benefits are reaped by the students.

(Rayees Masroor is a columnist and can be reached at rayeesrocks20@gmail.com)


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