How Online Education Is making The Dreams Of Rural Learners A Reality

By adding digital literacy to the mix, rural students with intelligence and ambition can get the education they deserve to build fruitful careers.

The COVID-19 lockdown necessitated a shift to digitization for industries of all stripes, education included. While digital learning had already been gaining popularity in India, it was limited to certain platforms that offered study materials but were not authorized to roll out degrees. Now, with schools and universities everywhere moving online, obtaining a bachelor’s degree or a CFA certification is just a matter of logging into an online learning platform that opens up opportunities for a large section of the Indian student population.

Reputed institutes of higher learning tend to be clustered in big cities and towns, often not easily accessible to the students living in distant areas or rural regions of the country. With the availability of online classes, rural students can now avail similar learning opportunities as their urban counterparts and secure degrees from the equivalent institutes from the comfort and safety of their homes. In today’s competitive job market, the pedigree of one’s university counts for a great deal, and online learning helps rural students to score an extra point on their CV. Furthermore, aspirants looking to crack tests like CAT, XAT, GRE, UPSC, CA and so on can sign up for online coaching without worrying about being able to commute to the coaching centers.

From a classroom perspective, too, online learning has many positives. There is far greater diversity in the student population admitted to each session, if physical attendance were required. Class discussions can benefit from the new pool of rural candidates, many of whom have unique perspectives and intellect that were hitherto untapped. Teachers can now identify these talents and give them the special nurturing they deserve. Moreover, as virtual learning platforms become more advanced, they can capture data about how students are progressing in different topics as well as difficulties that individual students are facing, which makes it easier for teachers to provide personalized coaching. This data also helps with designing course material to be more effective and improve the learning outcomes for each batch.

It is essential to remember, however, that there is a long way to go still. Many rural students are unable to benefit fully from online learning owing to unreliable internet connections and/or lack of access to digital screens. In most cases, a learner may have to rely on a cellphone which could be shared amongst the family, a common phenomenon in rural areas, limiting their access to online classes. Another detrimental factor is that most of the classroom sessions are conducted in English, which many students coming from a rural setup may not be well-versed with. One possible solution is the development of devices that can function offline, as well as feature subtitles in the local dialect. Government investment in cheaper and more widespread internet access will be highly beneficial, as is more training in the seamless use of digital devices.

In a post-COVID world, online learning will no longer be pursued as an option but become a go-to option for gaining skills and knowledge in a rapidly evolving world. To enable the rural population to fully benefit from it, uninterrupted access to the net and the distribution of digital learning devices should be prioritized by Governments and NGOs alike. Studies conducted since the lockdown began show that in families where the parents who were unable to avail basic education, have been supporting their children to take up online learning - an encouraging sign for the years to come. By adding digital literacy to the mix, rural students with intelligence and ambition can get the education they deserve to build fruitful careers.

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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