E-learning has become the new trend amid this global pandemic. Various technological platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams are being utilised by schools and colleges to engage and educate students in the absence of face to face opportunities. On one end of the spectrum, some teachers find this mode of teaching very productive and are able to cover their syllabus and prepare the students from an examination point of view as well. However, some still treat education through digital platforms with skepticism. Conventional classes offer physical presence and trigger social interaction between peers and teachers, which creates an emotional connect and the motivation for students to actively engage in the classes. However, online classes come with numerous distractions and cannot hold the attention span of the students for a long period of time. This is especially true of students in primary classes who require their parents’ constant presence to be attentive and understand the online classes. It is very difficult for parents to spend time with their children all day, all while working from home. The parents who used to limit their child's gadget usage time, now face the prospect of them missing classes if they do so. Skipping college or school classes is no longer for a day off, or because we are sick; our bandwidth now determines our attendance. According to recent statistics, only 40% of users get proper internet access, while rest struggle to attend their classes.
We must remember to avoid overtime exposure to digital screens as they can have a long term effect on our eyesight. There have been guidelines issued regarding the duration of e-learning. They state that the duration for online classes for pre-primary grades should not be more than half-an-hour, for primary and middle school - two sessions of 45 minutes each, and for high school classes - four sessions of 30 to 45 minutes. Abiding by these guidelines would be beneficial to both the teachers and the students.
While taking care of our physical health, it is also important to take into consideration the mental health of our teachers and peers as well. Students must think twice before “making fun” in an online class, and always be more respectful. Teachers in private schools primarily complain about online bullying by students during video calls, which speaks volumes about how we must remember to keep our behaviour in check.
Another challenge, especially for government school teachers, is reaching out to students who belong to economically weaker sections. A major percentage of smartphones is owned by the city population. In rural areas, people struggle to afford smartphones and laptops for their children. Although the net cost of online education spares the students the cost of travelling to and from campus, and its time flexibility often allows students to pursue other interests; this comes with a trade-off. Online classes have students under increased scrutiny and a plethora of uncovered security screwups. Especially those who take their privacy seriously find it difficult to use software without knowing the extent of the security it provides. This scenario has to be changed. Especially in India, given the vast diversity, switching to a digital lifestyle undoubtedly requires organization at various levels. The government must take effective measures to offer equal access to education to every young citizen, regardless of their economic situation. And for those of us who are privileged enough to have such facilities, we must understand, appreciate and adapt ourselves to the new normal. With the social-distancing regulations eating into much of the new academic year, online classes have emerged as the only way to continue educating the future pillars of our nation. While it has been met with many doubts and questions, the real question is why our education system in such a digital era is lagging so far behind.