Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Covid19 has brought on a tectonic shift in the education industry, for the foreseeable future. The most prominent change being the virtual/online classes. What most of us fail to acknowledge is that this shift from personal to digital was unavoidable. It was just a matter of time before this idea disrupted, and the pandemic only accelerated the process. So, while we all grapple with this brand-new way of learning, let us look at its unexplored potential.
For the uninitiated, virtual chasses are teaching lessons carried on virtually, i.e. on a software/through our screens, with the teacher and students sitting in geographically different locations. Right now, as the educators have just begun to discover the possibilities of this medium, it may look like only a software interface. But, as they experiment with the various facets of technology, it only gets more immersive. Virtual reality, for example, can provide a platform for the teachers to create real-life situations for the learners and explain complicated models and concepts with uncomplicated visuals. Cloud, on the other hand, can help the teachers to store their lessons and teaching content while having easy access to them whenever they like.
Pandemic or not, technology is the future of education. The more we adapt to it, the easier and more seamless, the learning experience becomes. However, due to certain limitations, virtual teaching has not been able to reach its full potential or even been reimagined. Let us look at these constraints-
Lack of stable IT infrastructure or internet penetration
Not every school or learner has access to the means of the internet and other technological devices. Especially in a country like India, the geographical constraints of making high-speed internet reach the students can be a challenge. Likewise, the school itself may lack a stable IT infrastructure/network to support such classes, making virtual teaching both challenging to create and consume. The silver lining, however, is that now more people are connected than ever thanks to increasing penetration of low-cost smartphones.
Need for training
Many times, an application or software is not able to reach its full disrupting potential due to the lack of proper user-training. We are not just talking about the teachers, but the students and the parents included. The need to digitally upskill is inevitable now, with the pandemic limiting the physical interactions to a great extent. And no educator may want to replace staff because that may result in a 50-60% cost implications compared to salary of existing staff. Hence, it is imperative to digitally upskill through proper trainings.
Keeping the class attentive
Keeping students interested is an area where virtual teachers are struggling, especially the one to many, live formats of teaching. One way can be producing different forms of bite-sized teaching content. With attention spans having taken a beating for most of us in the digital era, there is a need to custom-curate teaching content keeping the learner's age in mind. What can also keep lectures interesting is the 60-second rule , which says that one has to say/do something interesting in the first 60 seconds to be able to hold the audience’s interest further. Another trick that can work is assigning responsibilities for tasks. The anticipation of the outcome irks interest for many.
Lack of social collaboration
Learning in schools and colleges is much about social engagements and personalized experiences. Let us be honest; virtual can’t replace the real. But it is undoubtedly the next best option available. In the world of increasing social media and other apps’ usage, to rid the educators and learners from the inertia of the ‘real experience’, is a bit challenging. But as more schools are warming up to the new medium, the change in mindset is already visible.
Ultimately, what can significantly help tap the full potential of this new way of learning are seminars and training sessions that make both teachers and students aware of the various tools to conduct and benefit from virtual classrooms effectively.
We will get there, one class at a time. The positive step forward is us getting started on this journey of digitally transforming the education sector.