The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the adoption of online learning at all education levels. Not only thousands of colleges & universities but hundreds of thousands of schools have also closed worldwide.
However as of now online education has come with its own share of problems. To mention a few:
- Online classes don’t offer direct access to instructors and classmates as traditional face-to-face classes do. The students are unable to directly interact with professors, ask questions and get immediate help. They also take away the social and team-building that occurs informally in school and college classrooms.
- Students can’t rely on the same amount of instructor and peer feedback and accountability as traditional courses sometimes offer. Instructors also face a problem of grading since they don’t have the opportunity for regular informal feedback before and after classes.
- Students don’t have regular contact with class mates, who can offer assignment reminders and encouragement to complete projects and assignments. This applies to team activities as well since they don’t have direct interaction with teammates pushing them to complete their responsibilities.
- Students who struggle with the traditional course often have difficulty with the time commitment required for online classwork. Online classes require increased time management skills and focus.
- Younger children as well as children with special needs find it difficult to concentrate fully in online classes. They need the assistance of in-person instruction and may find it difficult to concentrate in a class conducted on a computer.
- Many students don’t have access to either computers or the internet at home. Without proper technology they are forced to miss out on their education till further solutions can be arranged.
- Students have more distractions and less oversight which in turn reduces their motivation in an online class. Very often they are seen switching of their cameras and doing other activities instead of paying attention in class
- Online learning has increased the amount of time students spend on digital devices every day. This in turn is affecting a student’s physical and mental health.
- College students are continuing to struggle with the educational fallout of the pandemic. More and more students are feeling stressed and anxious due to the coronavirus. Low income group students are grappling with a digital opportunity gap. One of the major effects of the transition to online learning is its impact on student health and their sleep habits. Students in different time zones compared to their institutions are now sacrificing sleep to wake up for classes on Zoom.
So, it’s very clear that online education cannot provide many of the informal social interactions which students have at school, but how will online courses do in terms of moving student learning forward?
- The teachers can help to run virtual discussion among the students, assign homework, and follow up with individual students.
- The online courses need to have a strong curriculum as well as strong pedagogical practices.
- The teachers need to understand what students know and what they don’t know, as well as how to help them learn new material.
- Teachers need to engage students in conversations so that they can create a space of comfort. They can spend about 10 to 15 mins on topics such as recent world news etc.
- The teachers need to set norms for engagement—such as requiring students to regularly ask questions and respond to their peers—that are different than the norms in the in-person setting.
- Teachers need to add some energizers and quizzes to make the topic interesting for the children
So even though online classes are generally not as effective as the traditional in-person classes, but they are certainly better than no classes. Today, virtual classes are allowing students to learn lessons and exercises and interact with teachers in ways that would have been impossible if an epidemic had closed schools even a decade or two earlier. So, even though we may be skeptical of online learning, but it is time to embrace and improve it.