Recently I have been enquired upon by my students regarding the possibility of online classes during this lockdown period. Most of them seem worried; worried by the notices of their respective Universities. Few of them want to get occupied with e-learning during free time. Their concerns over the issues of e-learning environment compelled me to write this piece of articles. In rare cases, my friends also ask me about how I am dealing with my students regarding teaching them.
Classes where I teach have courses completed and students were in the verge of or in the middle of exams. Lockdown broke the rhythm, and pandemic had been disturbing the tempo little earlier than this. It’s been more than a month and every student are at their home, some near and within the valley and rest far away. Students whom I supervise their final year projects are in regular (not daily) contact on usual social media platform where I mostly provide them with learning materials and way forward and not much of direct teaching.
Looking into the notices issued, I found the intention very novel and filled with good intention. it mentions the name of different tools and code of conducts regarding attendance and dress codes. But the notice itself is not complete. It is not self-defining. And, I have been telling my students to stay attentive for further notice, but given the circumstance of preparation from other side, I have no choice but to wait for the next move from the authorities.
My take on E-learning
The extent is less but my practicing of e-learning is not more than sharing the contents which are limited to the concerned issues. I refrain from contents with broad topics and extensive theories.
So far, I have not attempted audio or video conversation. I have not encouraged real-time learning at this phase and have focused on putting learner as the most active ones rather than the tutor for the commitment in learning. What I believe is that it needs careful preparation for these modes of distant learning from time arrangement to environment adjustment, and from gadgets’ cost to internet charge. I may be wrong here but I have seen pictures of our country men climbing to a tree or moving away from home to higher lands just to make or receive a telephone call.
E-learning and Equal Opportunity
In future it could be that students might come to schools and colleges for 2 or 3 days a week and other days they learn from home or from the place where they are. As of now it is not possible in our context as we lack proper facilities, due arrangements and no preparation to have pre-requisites of E-learning. It should always be kept in mind that E-learning is not just learning through electronic resources but it should be kept effective, efficient, engaging and above all equal opportunities.
If we are launching online classes as a tool of distance learning then just a notice or a decision will not suffice. It can’t happen just like that, it needs cautious planning and determined execution. At teachers end, it needs at least twice the time and devotion it needs for face-to-face coaching besides all the technical and environment arrangements which is obligatory for participants at both ends. If any of them misses it due to other than personal reasons then it will not justify the objective of education for all, for any circumstances. There remains danger of ever expanding gaps between haves and have-nots in terms of technology reach.
What to do for now?
Till today we are just above a month lagging behind the schedule. It might go another one month, at least, before we go into normal life. Two to three months in Bachelor and Masters level student’s career won’t matter much, in my view. Besides curriculum learning they have a lot of things to learn and acquire skills. They are not just students; they have other responsibilities too, as a son, as a friend, as a neighbor and many more.
Let them live their lives at the moment. Let them be helping hands in their family for their parent. Allow them to learn and acquire other personal and social skills without having worried about facing new mode of teaching methodology. Encourage them to get prepared for the times like this. Impart them to observe, deal and handle the pandemic with their loved ones. It should not be us, the teachers, who should hold their mind when they are experiencing something new to all of us. Let us agree that they also need to learn how to grow together with their family.
What next then?
Even if the lockdown is there to stay for next 3 months then we cannot fully rely on e-learning for all. Let’s say it goes beyond this and stays for a year then what we can offer is offline mode of e-learning and arrange printed resources at their door steps. For the time more than that, teachers need to do home-works, a lot of them. Above all, it’s the higher level officials who should arrange for this as it needs a powerful decision to implement with a lot of things at stake.