Online Learning Problems under COVID-19 Pandemic

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Jun 2020

Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

2 Jun 2020 – Ever since this pandemic has struck the world and India, there have been serious problems related to health, economy, education, etc. The Indian government has imposed a total lockdown on people and social distancing between them. In other words, they cannot come too close to each other even while putting on masks. Despite these measures, many people have been infected by the COVID virus and a large number of people have lost their lives.

Industries, shops, road side eateries — big or small, have closed down leading to workers losing their livelihood on a large scale. As a result migrants who come to big towns or cities from their villages have suffered immensely while trying to return to their distant homes. The pictures one sees of their plight on TV or in newspapers are tragic and traumatic.

In addition, on the education front, schools and colleges have been shut down and students have been asked to stay at home. This has happened for about two months now. Concerned about the loss of teaching in schools, on-line teaching has been introduced so that students can continue to learn even during this lockdown period. The classes are generally being taken by the school teachers themselves and they are doing a creditable job of teaching the curricula of different subjects.

While the idea of on-line teaching of school students is good, there are several difficulties that are being experienced in this process.

I discuss these issues and suggest how these problems may be suitably addressed. Some of the issues that need to be considered are:

  • Technological,
  • Disparities — financial and social,
  • Missing the classroom environment,
  • Going to Library or canteen or playground,
  • Issues regarding adolescence of students, etc.

On the technological front, online teaching can continue if internet is available and students have computers or laptops to participate in the process. Unfortunately, while the rich parents are able to provide the requisites to their children, students belonging to poorer families lack the basic infrastructure. Even if they do have a laptop or a smart mobile phone, the WIFI is erratic with obvious interruptions of online teaching. The financial inequalities are introducing academic disparities due to the above factors.

The facilities provided to students in good schools are not only educational but also comprise a school canteen, sports facilities, occasional debates or going to a museum or a tourist place. Students eat or play together, share common experiences in each other’s company. A good School Library is also a place for holistic learning. Obviously online teaching cannot include these features of a good school.

Another learning experience is also not possible. Some students ask questions from their teachers. Others try to understand the import of the question as well as the answers given by the teachers resulting in a broader understanding of the issues involved.

For secondary students of science, apart from theoretical teaching by teachers, students are encouraged to do some simple experiments in class — be they of Physics or Chemistry or Life sciences. Even a Geography class teacher will show to students, some maps of countries, rivers, mountains, deserts etc. These maps will improve the learning of relevant concepts being taught by the teacher. Photos of these maps on the laptop or Mobile phone screen are not so effective.

Another issue concerns the question of adolescence. Students who are between the age groups of 14 — 17 are generally called adolescents who are not only growing in years but are also being influenced by psychological and emotional factors including attraction towards the students of opposite sex. This is a natural growing process. If they are in school there are several avenues as indicated above, of reducing the emotional stress they begin to feel during this age group. Students busy in online learning miss these avenues resulting occasionally in psychological stress and unexpected behaviour.

While growing up physically and emotionally is natural, the process has some outlets in schools where there may be a counselor who helps students and by their participation in physical games and sports. Again online teaching does not include these outlets. The issue is quite complex and I do not wish to make it a binary one.

The problems of students of a College or University that is closed are similar but vary in several ways. I do not wish to consider the issue in this essay.

In some apartment complexes in bigger cities of India, there are some religious gurus who hold regular satsangs (religious gatherings) for people. Generally adults attend these satsangs. Obviously these religious meetings have also been affected but occasionally they continue to hold this process of religious and moral discourse by limiting the number of people and ensuring they do not physically come too close to each other. Some youngsters or adolescents have also been attending these meetings and have generally felt a sense of joy and peace.

COVID, lockdown or social distancing, life goes on.  Let us try to propagate peace and harmony in addition to teaching online courses.

______________________________________________

Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 8 Jun 2020.

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