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Can remote learning compensate for the new classroom interaction?

The pandemic has affected the education of 376 million students worldwide. The school learning administration, teachers, and students are finding new ways to connect by using electronic technologies to access the education curriculum. Platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and MS Teams have taken place of the schools and the classrooms. The school blackboard, benches, and tables are replaced with laptops, computers, and study tables of the students.

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The teachers and the students sometimes have a tough time while understanding the unfamiliar digital platforms. The parents play an important role in the online learning of their children as they have to learn using these digital platforms so that they can help their children. There are both advantages and disadvantages of online education during the time of the pandemic.

Advantages of Online Learning

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  • The students can work and study from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Students don’t have to face the distractions that are present in their school. Cases of bullying are also reduced considerably.
  • Students can take an asynchronous track. This will help the students with special learning differences. The students that may struggle with listening comprehension and can do better with visual e-learning are benefitted.
  • The live lectures can be recorded for the students who are not able to take the class at a particular point in time. Students can watch the lectures again to resolve their doubts if they have any.

Disadvantages of Online Learning

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  • If the student is young and doesn’t know about using the digital platform, the parent of the student needs to be present all the time during the online classes of their ward.
  • It is difficult for the parents to provide internet and device facilities for their children. It becomes more difficult for the parents who have more than one child. If the parent is himself doing work from home then it is very difficult for him to provide another laptop or mobile phone to their ward.
  • The latest technologies tend to distract the children. The younger students may play games on the phone that is provided to them to study. The students can watch youtube videos, play video games, or text friends during their online classes. Because of these factors, adult supervision is necessary for them.
  • Online learning requires 5-6 hours of exposure to the screen. This affects the eyes of the students.
  • It is difficult for the teacher to tackle with the students through an online platform.

As we can see from the above classification that remote learning has its advantages and disadvantages. However, it is hard to say clearly whether or not the classroom will be replaced.

Should the schools reopen? There are reasons to seriously consider this decision.

Till when the schools will not open for the students? These concerns are legitimate. Online learning is not providing the education and the values that classroom learning provides.

A study from the Netherlands shows that remote learning during an 8-week long lockdown led to learning losses that were equivalent to 8-10.5 weeks of classroom learning. The schools and colleges are shut for 15 months now. This is a great matter of concern.

When children go to school they follow a healthy routine. There is a certain time of waking up and following the routine. It makes the child disciplined. When children go to school, they interact with their peers which in turn helps them with emotional enrichment and developing social skills. Children these days are having social anxiety and isolation because of the lack of interaction with other people. Parents are suffering from parental exhaustion in supporting remote learning with the paucity of technologies.

According to Unicef’s Remote Learning Reachability Report, only 24% of Indian households have the access to the internet at home. Children that don’t have internet access are at a considerable high loss. The children who are not having mobile and laptops to attend the online classes are also at an increased loss.

The poor children who were dependent upon the school for their Midday Meal Scheme are at a great loss. Food insecurity and the loss of school-based healthcare services potentially create widening healthcare disparities.

Remote Learning cannot and should not replace or compensate classroom learning as the students with special needs, poor children, and children who have no access to the internet are most vulnerable to the losses.

But the reopening of the schools will be a great threat to the health of the teachers as well as the students. The teachers haven’t got themselves vaccinated for the 2nd dose of the vaccine. As it is, the reports have shown that the third wave of the coronavirus will target the children. It is a tough time for the students as well as the teachers. It will take a year to get everyone vaccinated and the school cannot and should not re-open before that.

Edited by Tanish Sachdev

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