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Digital Learning: The Medium Of Tomorrow

As the world is trying to ensure continuity of operations and communication through digital means, education has also embraced the digital medium.

It’s quite unusual for me to see that the person sitting in the next room and working on a laptop is not a colleague but my own daughter who is taking her online classes. This is one of the many unusual and unique experiences we are having in these unprecedented times. Who would have imagined that working from home, and online meetings would become the norm, or that kids won’t go to school, or the basic freedom of going out and enjoying fresh air or having a cup of coffee will become a big luxury, and a health hazard! None of this is what we ever imagined. 

As the world is trying to ensure continuity of operations and communication through digital means, education has also embraced (willingly or unwillingly) digital medium in a big way to ensure that the process of teaching and learning continues despite the closure of most institutions, and students ensconced in their houses. Online learning is not something new but has been increasing at a significant pace in past 3-4 years thanks to the availability of affordable devices, and internet connectivity becoming better and cheaper. However, post-Covid there has been a sudden shift with online education becoming a necessity or rather the ‘only option’ as opposed to one of the options. 

As most of the schools, colleges, teachers, and students plunge into an online medium for teaching and learning, many questions are also raised – Whether teaching/learning can happen online effectively? Can school student’s especially primary ones learn through this medium? Whether the teachers are equipped to deliver online? What about pedagogy and tools? What about access to devices and connectivity? Will it create a digital divide? What will be the role parents play given kids are at home? What kind of demands it will impose on the teachers? How will progress and learning be assessed? What about co-curricular activities? 

Well, we have some answers and are discovering others as we go along. Having been involved with schools and students in last 3 months in helping them go online whether through our smart curriculum- Mylestone or our student learning app – learnflix, we have had our share of learnings as we engaged with these questions. Key ones are 

  • It’s important to develop new teaching and learning approaches that use technology effectively in this different environment and medium. It includes instructions, assessments, remedial interventions and tracking of learning outcomes. Just replicating what happens in class through technology won’t work. 

  • Implementation and use of technology has to be made simple for a teacher and student to adapt it without much hassle.  

  • One cannot overemphasize the importance of support and training along with consistent handholding for teachers, to make any such program a success in the school or college.  

  • Also, there is a need for affordable solutions (not all parents can afford high-cost digital learning solutions) which can work despite lower bandwidths and basic level devices. It’s essential if online learning has to really penetrate and impact a vast number of students in Tier II/III/IV towns. 

  • It needs more involvement from parents to ensure healthy routine and regulated screen time. 

  • There are still challenges with a vast number of students/schools in the low-income category where access to devices and connectivity is a challenge. Maybe, govt intervention or subsidies for this infrastructure can be an option. 

Even when schools reopen, one is looking at classes for a few days in a week with remote teaching on others, to ensure fewer students and social distancing in classes.  

In higher education, the acceptance of online was anyways higher, and will further accelerate now. Govt. has been quite proactive in promoting online learning as this is the most effective way to increase Gross Enrollment Ratio. Top 100 universities have already been allowed to offer online degree courses. This year particularly because of disruption, many leading universities including a few IITs have already announced their plans to conduct classes online throughout the year.  

Many of the upskilling and degree programmes for working professionals are being conducted online or in hybrid mode – online plus some contact classes. This trend will continue to grow as more people will opt for re-skilling as technology disruption makes skills/job obsolescence higher. 

Given the cost pressures, more companies will gravitate towards moving employee training and development programs online. Many other segments like competition exams for various professional courses as well as govt jobs have moved online. 

I think this situation has been an inflexion point for online learning with everyone being thrust into it. As users become more comfortable and realize the benefits it offers, this trend will continue and accelerate even post COVID, democratizing the education and making it available and affordable to masses across economic and geographic segments. Moving forward, we shall see education becoming a hybrid of offline and online with combination varying as per user maturity and type of intervention. However, this will need concerted efforts and policies towards upskilling of teachers, guidelines for adequate usage in children, availability of digital infrastructure and recognition of online degrees for recruitment by industry.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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digital learning COVID-19

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