Promises and pitfalls of online education | The Daily Star
03:42 PM, August 13, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:44 PM, August 13, 2020

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY SPECIAL

Promises and pitfalls of online education

The ongoing pandemic has made virtual meetings an integral part of our lives, and so, our education system has also shifted to the screens, with institutions all over the world initiating online classes. This transition has been tough for many. While teachers are struggling to maintain the ideal classroom environment, students are having a hard time in adapting to the new ways of assessment.

Connectivity is one of the major challenges for virtual classrooms. As a result, teachers have started recording their lectures, for students to revisit afterwards. On the other hand, to maintain the one-to-one interaction, many have started taking classes in smaller batches.  

While reputed city institutions are successfully continuing their classes, schools in rural areas are not blessed with good internet connectivity and the required assets to shift to a proper virtual set-up. As a result, many students and teachers remain estranged. More often than not, with one device in a family of multiple students, education remains inaccessible. 

Online examinations also prove tricky. Avoiding instances of cheating was fairly simple during traditional classes, but the virtual classroom lets students access all resources during an exam. In this case, parents need to be more vigilant and ensure that the assessment remains fair. Electricty disruption also act as a barrier in the process.

Teachers who have taught at schools their entire lives are now teaching online, in front of cameras. They are using YouTube tutorials as references for their classes, learning how to use Zoom, Google Classroom and Facebook groups, and compiling soft copies of their notes. For Zebunnesa Begum, a teacher at Academia School, adapting to these changes have been difficult, but thanks to her students and grandchildren, she is learning the required skills.

Despite all their efforts, there have been cases of online harassment and incidents where classes were dismissed due to disturbances. Students often add irrelevant annotations and draw over the teachers' screens. They also spam the chat windows. Institutions have recently started looking into these matters and action is being taken against the ones at fault. However, monitoring things on the other side of the screen is tougher than it sounds. At the end of the day, participants of an online class need to remember that it is a classroom setting, and follow etiquettes that they would in a regular classroom.

Traditional curriculums are designed to have a holistic approach for the self-development of students, but online education provides no scope for extracurricular activities. Socially distant fests and events are just not the same as networking and meeting people in-person.

However, there are bright sides to this 'new normal'. Students and teachers no longer have to combat traffic congestion to get to classes. Mashiat Islam, an O-level student, adds that her introverted classmates are more comfortable with online interactions, such as small groups, forums, e-mails and texts, as they can have their queries answered, without the obligation of being in front of a large group of people. Additionally, students can do classes comfortably from their rooms. According to Faheema Nasheeta Rahman, an A-level candidate, being at home has allowed her plenty of time to develop hobbies such as photography and singing, besides her academics.

Whether we are ready or not, online education is likely to continue as the pandemic persists. It is important to get it right, with functional work spaces and proper use of the resources at hand.

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