The growing trend of online classes in Bangladesh: Curse or cure?
"We were at our tuition, and classes were being conducted timely. It was a usual day, then suddenly the teacher's assistant came with an announcement that our sir would not take the class today, instead would take it online tomorrow," said Aurnob Basunia, a class 9 student from an English version background.
"This has happened quite a lot of times. It is common in my coaching classes, as many classes are taken online if there are difficulties during the day," added Aurnob as he shared his experience.
During the prolonged countrywide shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, online education was introduced as a damage control policy to help students continue their education. At that time, schools, colleges, and universities tried to reach out through different media, from television and radio to modern platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, and Facebook. However, now that the pandemic has cooled down and educational institutions are running normally, the craze of online classes is yet to fade.
"I can get more free time since our classes get canceled and are taken online during the night," said Adib Hasan (pseudonym), an English medium high schooler from Dhanmondi. When asked if he was now more active during the night, he said, "Yes, after COVID, my friends and I are more active during the night, with studies, games, and chatting."
"Most of the major events take place during the night, and I wouldn't want to miss them."
"A lot of our classes are happening online." "It is better than not happening at all," said Azwad Muttaqi, a final-year undergraduate student at the Islamic University of Technology.
"After the pandemic, the academic routine has shifted quite a lot. However, it is important that classes take place and the academic year continues," added Azwad as he shared his thoughts on the current condition.
But should online classes be the cure or the curse? Can it take the quality of education to the next level?
Online education provides a healthy and comfortable environment for studying at home. A student will need a smartphone and good internet access to participate in such education. However, access to technology and the internet remains a significant challenge and roadblock for students in Bangladesh.
During the pandemic, EdTech in Bangladesh has grown substantially. From virtual classrooms to interactive online learning platforms, EdTech has gained popularity. Major players like Shikho, 10 Minute School, Sohopathi, and Bohubrihi. EduRoots and many others are becoming alternatives for coaching centres and private tuition.
However, schools and universities have also started to use learning management systems (LMS) to bridge the gap in academia. Meanwhile, I1class took EdTech to a different approach by offering the same online classes as the major tech startups but with official affiliations from schools and colleges.
"As a parent, it relieves me now that I don't have to run around to drop off and pick up my kid to school, college, or coaching six times a day. However, I feel like kids might start to take education lightly as recordings and online materials become available. I feel like they might waste their time not doing the online class and instead spend the time loitering around," said Hosne Ara Afroz, a concerned mother of three living in Green Road, Dhaka.
Studies have also shown that shifting and adapting to a new lifestyle can transform an individual's life, from maintaining a healthy biological clock to a healthy body and psychology. This transformation can either be a blessing for a healthier lifestyle or a headache that doesn't seem to disappear.
For example, a lack of face-to-face interaction and socialisation opportunities can limit the uptake of knowledge and develop lousy psychology. The absence of immediate feedback and personal guidance from teachers can also challenge some students who require self-discipline and motivation to stay focused.
"I have been through this phase. We used to have many online classes, and our eyes were stuck to the screen for more than 10 hours each day. It was infuriating at one point as I faced many vision and hearing issues. Even though it made study a bit easier, it took a great toll on my body," said Manjurul Hassan Bandhan, a recent graduate now working as a Sales manager at Catalyst.
"There was a bright side. I was able to give my family and friends more time and bring many of the works under control," added Bandhan as he sighed with relief.
With online education booming, many like Bandhan can now enjoy quality time while keeping their academics on track. This is also beneficial for the teachers as they get to plan their lives better, "It is a sign of relief to me as I can now provide better lessons to my students at a flexible time. However, parents might argue if their money was being invested properly as it is happening online," said Zaman Haque (pseudonym), a former Udvash teacher.
To maximise the benefits of the growing trend of online academic classes in Bangladesh and mitigate the challenges, policymakers, educational institutions, and teachers must collaborate to ensure equitable access to online classes and address digital devices.
Comprehensive training for teachers on effective online teaching methodologies and leveraging technology to enhance student engagement should be provided.