What the COVID pandemic has taught us about digital learning
Dec 01, 2020
Nepal has been in an on-off state of lockdown. The constant lifting and reimposition of lockdowns in the country has affected all sectors of the society.
This has adversely impacted the education sector in particular. Schools have not opened since the lockdown was first imposed in Chaitra last year, and UNICEF estimates that almost two thirds of Nepal’s schoolchildren are unable to access remote learning during school closures. Even fewer students have access to online platforms for attending classes or accessing learning materials.
However, some schools have gone fully online, pointing out the interactivity of the online medium as a major plus point for learning and teaching effectively.
But is it true? Is online learning just as good as in-person schooling? In the seven or so months of school closure, what lessons have we learnt on online education? Can it go along with more traditional forms of teaching and learning? Here are some insights on what Nepal’s first fully online education experience has taught us:
1. The Technology is already there
Considering that the adoption of e learning to replace physical classes was never tried in Nepal, the current online classes should be treated as a successful experiment.
And the technology has stepped up in a big way.
The online platform has proved to be better than even normal schooling in many respects, such as:
Interruptions: It is very easy for the teacher to see and respond to any queries without being disturbed thanks to in-built chatting features. The class remains silent and focused, and in this environment knowledge reaches all students in an efficient and undisturbed way.
Downtime: Downtime is essentially wasted time that would have been utilized for learning instead. Online platforms have gotten rid of downtime significantly. Imagine an instance where students of a certain area are late to school because they had to take a longer route because of ongoing construction. Or a teacher walking down to the staffroom just because the classroom ran out of chalks and markers. With online platforms, there is a newfound ease in terms of avoiding downtime. The students who would be late can take classes from home, so can the teacher who has been unfortunate with their dry markers.
Flexibility: The recording features in courses has definitely increased the flexibility of where and when you can learn. Missing one or two classes due to an unavoidable circumstance is now not something to be afraid of. You can make up for the absence by catching up on recorded videos, too.
The availability of Open Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera and EdX has allowed students to access any course that they want from anywhere they want for free, again making it extremely convenient and flexible for students.
2. The instructors are (almost) there
For older teachers, such a sudden shift was definitely hard. There were many different things they were expected to learn, and they had no experience in most of them. Muting people, sharing screens, figuring out how to draw in various softwares, handling online assignments -- the online platform seemed unnecessarily difficult.
But that was not their fault - not anyone’s fault, really. It was only a question of experience.
Unfortunately there is no magic solution to this. It can only be fixed through experience - very much like teaching itself.
And many teachers have largely stepped up to the task as time has passed, becoming more tech savvy in the process too! But some problems still persist, and will not dissipate until teachers gain more experience and are confident with the online platform.
3. The demerits
While there are some things that digital learning falters at, every one of these demerits is fixable, and a lot of them have been addressed in digital learning platforms - Veda in particular. Some things that are often put forward as demerits include:
The difficulty replicating the student collaboration of a standard classroom. The interaction between the teacher and individual student is handled very well in the online form, but there is another interaction that plays a big part in effective learning - the interaction between one student and another. To many people, this seems to have been lost in the medium.
However, platforms like Zoom - which Veda has in-built support for, seamlessly allow for this interaction between students with the help of directed chatting - you can send messages securely to a single person within the platform itself, and engage in productive discussion on the subject matter with them very easily.
Security: The issue of security always comes hand in hand with any online interaction. There have been many issues of classroom hijacking, and other attempts to disrupt classes, but many issues are being addressed by the conferencing platforms, and by the use of Digital Learning Platforms too. Veda, in particular, has an extremely secure zoom integration, where online classes can only be accessed by a registered student, and the class information is kept hidden so no unauthorized individual can access it.
4. A Dedicated Digital Learning Platform helps (a lot)
Digital Learning Platforms have addressed many of the issues that come with the online learning environment. Endorsed by over 700 top schools of Nepal, Veda App is a perfect example. It delivers learning experiences that enable students to actively engage with educational content.
Veda bridges the gap between parents/students and the educational organization, helping parents/students get important information about assignments, routine, progress reports, attendance right from their mobile phone while helping schools and parents to keep track of the students on the palm of their hands.
The second app Veda Guru aids teachers in handling assignments, attendance, and most importantly conducting secure and safe online classes, with built-in Zoom integration, which the students can join in the press of a button.
With features like brand differentiation, data visualization and informed decision making, it goes above and beyond in doing what traditional education does not - enabling data driven decision making for educational institutions as well.
Veda has made the overall online education experience during the lockdown secure, efficient and enjoyable, helping students, parents, and the institution itself easily transition into online learning.
5. The future is a combination of physical and digital
It is clear that shifting the education landscape completely is not a problem of technology- it is an adoption problem. As more and more institutions adopt Veda, more and more it aids traditional teaching and learning, moving the educational experience into a new generation.
Online education can go above and beyond in complementing in-person education. It is evident that the future of learning lies in digital tools and learning platforms, and combining physical and digital learning is the ideal way to aid that journey towards a brighter future in education.
The COVID pandemic has shown us the direction, an opportunity to move towards a better future in education. Embracing this march towards a better system, even after schools reopen will definitely benefit everyone in the long run.