Break-Free Learning

Break-Free Learning

The rapid cascading of events driven by the pandemic has forced the schools and colleges to be shutdown indefinitely. Initially, caught amidst this unprecedented sudden distancing mandate, the institutions and their wards were confined to pockets of their own within a week’s duration. Yet, the institutionalised inclination to impart and acquire knowledge has propelled the teachers and students to quickly shift to digital platforms to keep the academic momentum going. Ever since, e-learning has become the etiquette for education during these COVID lockdown days. Despite the mixed reactions to this digital transformation donned by the academic routine, students from all the social and economic rungs of India have already adopted the change.

Online classes come with a host of advantages that convenience and augment the learning process in numerous ways, but not without its share of glitches. So, it is vital to effectively weigh its pros and cons for efficiently reaping the benefits while cleverly mitigating the disadvantages. To facilitate the same, it would be fitting to scrutinize and highlight the opportunities and challenges of online learning.

The first aspect that appeals to an e-learning aspirant is the easy global access that the facility bestows. A stable internet connection powered computer with a basic configuration is all that a user needs to access and attend an online class from anywhere in the world. Further, it is encouraging to know that this comes in a most economic package, wherein the costs saved on eating out, commuting, etc., can be used to cancel out the investment in buying a computer and internet service.

Experts claim that “Online education also provides students with the chance to network with peers across nations or even different continents. This often leads to other opportunities in terms of collaboration with other individuals in the implementation of a project. At the same time, it makes them culturally sensitive and able to fit into other environments easily given their exposure to other cultures”. [1]

In a virtual classroom, all the input and output data are saved in a common online repository, which could be accessed by the students using their unique access credentials. This saves time by quickly granting anytime anywhere access to study materials like “live discussion documents, training materials and emails” [1]. Also, from the instructor’s perspective, the online environment provides the scope for the facilitator to collaborate with a student to create a dynamic learning experience. The realization of a shift in technology creates hope in educators to transform their course objectives and teaching styles by taking full advantage of the online format. [2]

With such merits and many more to its credit, as discussed earlier, e-learning has some limitations, too. The cost to set up the digital infrastructure to gain access, use, and benefit from a virtual classroom might be a major stumbling block for the students and families belonging to poor economic backgrounds. Tutors who are not technically trained to use and deliver sessions over a digital platform might find virtual classrooms to be impossible mediums of instruction.

Aptly briefing the constraint Shweta Bhandral states, “Not everyone can afford computers, headphones, broadband connections and the other devices one needs in this kind of setup. Neither are all teachers tech-savvy, trained to embrace change, or understanding of the needs of introverts who sit quietly in class. In addition, lack of private spaces in Indian homes could be a major hindrance to such classes for both teachers and students”. [3] Moreover, internet connectivity and bandwidth issues are other major deterrents that have to be sorted to ensure the uninterrupted conduct of online classes.

E-learning, thus includes a range of multi-faceted benefits, while also being a disruption that obligates an uncomfortable change in the lives of many. But, in this VUCA world shaken by the ill-effects of the pandemic, the disruptions only call for a positive move to overcome the devastation without any lapse. The Indian educational community is aware of this fact and is braving the odds to adopt the digital learning path to success. No wonder it is predicted that the online education market in India would reach “Rs 360.3 billion by the year 2024 at a CAGR of over 43% between 2019 to 2024” [2]. Though we might not seem to have reached the pinnacle overnight, the nation is slowly yet surely progressing towards supremacy in the digital learning realm too.