Is online education a gamble worth taking?

Online studies
Online studiesCollected

It’s been nearly a month since I started attending online video communication classes that the school has begun conducting. Other than some minute technical failures or a few network-related issues, classes have been going fairly smooth for young students like me. From very early morning till afternoon, I constantly remain confined within my room with the PC staring straight at me.

Stuck with an extremely tight, daily schedule, its near impossible find a moment of respite nowadays. With a daily routine comprising of immense school tasks, it’s quite distressing to feel the ‘long, lost’ fatigue of study life after a long period of boredom caused by the ongoing lockdown, that was initiated nearly 4 months back! Sometimes, after contemplating, I feel this quarantine is a bliss for some students, yet with such a wholesome online study routine and a limited time frame in hand now, it seems we are returning back to our ‘’old days’’.

Well, to be precise now, it is certainly a grave mistake to say that the distance-learning programme was an odd and wrong decision taken by various institutions. It is actually a positive approach for students to acquire knowledge using a platform, comparatively new in this country. Hence, this will allow pupils and teachers likewise in our country to get a firm grasp on up-to-date and contemporary online skills in this field. This is acting as a wise, short term alternative to traditional learning.

With only a very insignificant segment of our country having access to these facilities, it is hard to imagine this turning into a reliable and mainstream mode of learning, even in a couple of years.

However, transitioning suddenly to a totally distinct method of learning means we will have to confront various early challenges before fully adapting to the new scenario. With the recent spike in Covid-19 cases around the globe, the hope of returning back to our previous lifestyles is still a far cry according to the majority of analysts. Now, redesigning and adjusting is the only immediate, if not the long term, remedy in order to curb the appalling implications that have resulted due to this global outbreak. A ‘new normal’ is the only rational solution!

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Now, coming back to the issue of online education, analysing public opinion after the introduction of this platform into our education system, we get to know that common people have mixed perceptions regarding this move. It is also important to note that a significant portion of our society is also skeptical regarding this approach.

Although I was initially optimistic on this decision, after studying and getting a deep insight into this matter, the long-term credibility of this new method of learning has been a question I still ponder upon. Even though it’s the only temporary alternative we have to face to face physical classes, can it really be effective in filling the vacuum caused by the closure of schools? If the pandemic situation deteriorates, can pupils continue to acquire knowledge through this ‘not so reliable’ mode of learning? Is it really eligible to be a valid substitute to physical learning?

Accessibility is primarily the key to adapting to this new form of learning. How many families have access to this predominantly technology-oriented mode of education in our country? Shockingly, the numbers are quite unfortunate. The remote areas, where the majority of inhabitants of Bangladesh reside, are deprived of the necessary infrastructure to accommodate a well-established online learning system. With only a very insignificant segment of our country having access to these facilities, it is hard to imagine this turning into a reliable and mainstream mode of learning, even in a couple of years.

While internet access has become widespread in the last decade, we might readily assume that every student has the required capability to get a hold onto this ‘new-fashioned’ style of learning. Speaking, with reference to various statistics, we get to know that the situation is quite the opposite and complex.

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While only the ‘elite’ people of our society are being able to provide the required technology for this platform, the many under privileged across the country are largely unaware of such ways of learning, leading their children to be disadvantaged and deprived of education in this period of crisis. Is education a form of ‘commodity’ only ‘affordable’ for the financially solvent elites of our society? Of course not, rather it’s a fundamental right and the community must ensure no one is stripped of the things they deserve as citizens. Yes, the current state of the country and the wider world at large is awful in many cases due to this pandemic, but this issue is certainly not negligible and cannot be dealt with reluctantly.

It is required and highly recommended for parents and teachers likewise, to get fully exposed and gain a much deeper understanding on issues associated with online security. Maybe the government can also take a lead in training teachers and parents in developing knowledge on this matter.

Although online education through video communication is not a new phenomenon worldwide, people never considered it to ever replace the traditional way of learning, in my opinion. There is no need for travelling long distances on your way to school, no carrying ‘mammoth’ backpacks and nor is there the compulsion to dress in proper school uniform. What more privilege can a student aspire of after getting rid of all these ‘massive’ burdens?

To be true, there is a lot more to lose than to gain when students are lacking the things we often consider to be burdens for us. Traditional schooling often builds up and instills the sense of discipline into pupils. Even though resource materials for studies are now at our fingertips at home, remaining “free of the school” at home, for a long period, means students are more prone to forget the norms of school life that actually shape us through our years. The significance of uniforms, waking up early, completing our household chores and getting buckled up for our ‘journey’ to school – all of these actually ignite a sense of responsibility in children. Can we afford to lose all these principles for the sake of getting an extra hour of sleep at home?

On the other hand, after mentioning all these severe implications of online schooling, the matter of digital or internet security is an important point to take a note of. The question on this topic that commonly arises is – who is constantly regulating what students are doing during their online classes? Is it the parents? Or is it the teachers? Through my practical experience during this month-long distance-learning classes, it’s quite clear to me that no one, neither the parents nor the teachers, have a complete eye on what’s going on inside the individual student’s device, whether it be a phone or laptop.

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While boomer parents might be struck with awe witnessing the ‘futuristic’ technological breakthroughs, that they themselves were not exposed to during their early years, they must also acquire a firm knowledge of these platforms. As most parents in this country are not fully aware and familiar to the technology associated with online education, there is a high possibility that an overwhelming number of students are going to exploit their learning time and indulge themselves into other activities. I believe it is required and highly recommended for parents and teachers likewise, to get fully exposed and gain a much deeper understanding on issues associated with online security. Maybe the government can also take a lead in training teachers and parents in developing knowledge on this matter.

It is also vital to mention health implications surrounding video or visual learning. Long time exposure to rays can also result in detrimental physical problems, such as vision problems and headaches, bringing about unfavorable conditions. Along with all these numerous complications, a student’s life will likely get driven into a chronic mess!

The introduction of virtual or online education is seen by many as a game-changing breakthrough and a very suitable alternative to traditional learning. A large group of people also have a considerable amount of skepticism concerning this matter. It will certainly be erroneous to state that video conference learning through apps like Zoom and Google Meet is an ineffective, temporary approach to education during this worldwide outbreak. At the same time, considering it to be a permanent plausible solution is also an overly exaggerated statement, at least by closely inspecting the factors mentioned above.

There must be widespread awareness among the general public on these critical points which we might often fail to comprehend. Now, analysing deeply, the prime question is – how credible is this distance learning programme? Is it going to turn out to be a profitable gamble in the long-term?

Shah Radifat Islam is a Grade XI student of Scholastica School, Dhaka and can be contacted at radifat.islam15@gmail.com