It is said that student life is the best part of one's life. What made this life so interesting is the campus life, hanging out with friends during recess, gossips and much more. But offline-institutional mainstream education came to a halt after the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020.
While all the countries are at different stages of Covid-19 infection rates, worldwide, there are currently more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures due to the pandemic, according to a survey by the World Economic Forum. Educational institutes being shut down for months has forced students and educators across all levels of education to rapidly adapt to online learning. Through Zoom, Google Meet, Google classroom, and other platforms, millions of teachers and students worldwide adapted to the new reality of virtual learning.
2020 was the year of online classes and Zoom meetings. Students are still trying to adapt to the online education system. While the lockdowns and quarantine made online learning a household name, it also led to one indisputable realisation-- it works!
By 2021, teachers and students have managed to conduct all sorts of academic processes online. Starting from lectures, almost everything including presentation, midterms exams, semester finals are now being held online. This has made people realise that they could do this even before the pandemic hit, and, can continue this even after the pandemic ends.
Moreover, online learning has turned out to be more efficient and convenient for most students. The study materials are provided to everyone, no hurry for catching a lecture, classes set at convenient timing, all of this makes academic carrier easier for them. In an informal survey of students in a programme, an overwhelming majority said they liked the idea of not having to go to campus, thereby saving on transportation, food and even childcare costs. They also liked the flexibility and convenience of learning anywhere, especially from the comfort of home.
Although online learning has some downsides, like the lower opportunities for peer-to-peer social interaction, the absence of valued face-to-face conversations with teachers, network availability in all zones, proper internet connection, possession of the right devices, etc. often become obstacles for some but it also has many upsides.
Arunima Tahsin, a ninth grader from Willes Little Flower School and College, says that going to school so early in the morning used to be a great hassle for her. Now she can wake up on time for a lecture, and she can do so with a fresh and well-rested mind. "Besides, I am learning better at home since I have enough time and constant contact with my teachers," said the girl regarding her satisfaction with home-schooling.
Rawnak Hossain, a third year student of journalism at Dhaka University had been taking online free courses provided by different platforms like Coursera, Udemy, 10 Minutes School, etc. He believes that providing online courses of the academic syllabus in this way would be helpful for many students. In fact, it would be a time saving and efficient idea to upload a few easy short courses with necessary study materials for students to complete on their own within the due time.
Some countries are looking forward to opening educational institutions for resuming offline education as the infection rates are dropping gradually and vaccinating the mass people. As things return to normal, university educators and leaders alike would be remiss if online learning is put back to where it was in the pre-Covid era. It will be a tremendous loss of opportunity if we do not continue to exploit the power that it brings to the educational milieu. It really revolutionised the education system.
Nevertheless, even when online education shifts back to offline, online classes will not vanish completely. Professors and educators will continue to keep online classes as a backup or maybe alternative plan. When necessary, teachers can shift the lecture online. The problems that used to come in the way of taking classes in the past, for example- storms and rainy days, inability to reach campus, sickness etc. will no longer be able to hinder attending classes.
Some experts suggest institutions start with sectioning up of batches and taking classes of half of the students on alternate days. If they decide to implement that plan, then teachers can take the class of half the students in the classroom and the rest half can attend the class online. If this is implemented, teachers will not need to take the same class twice. Besides, teachers often have to take make-up classes for various reasons. The make-up classes can be shifted online on weekends or when the students are home.
If both online and offline education can be utilised hand in hand, it will be beneficial for both students and teachers. Even though many students are literally urging to return to their campuses and classrooms, online classes may still remain a part of their lives from now on. The biggest reason behind this is that it was a total success during the time of crisis.
Students are talking a lot on social media about really missing being in person with their classmates, with their colleagues, with their faculty members, and having those spontaneous, organic conversations and relationships. They miss their classrooms so badly because not only does it make them excited about learning and hold them accountable and motivate them to stay engaged, but they also actually learn a lot more.
However, the pandemic brought many lessons. Besides being a deadly global crisis, it was also an opportunity to adapt to a whole different lifestyle. Online education will remain a blessing that the pandemic will be leaving behind. It has already been normalised during the pandemic, but it will have to be normalised even when the pandemic is gone, for the greater good.
The writer is a third-year student of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University. She can be reached at [email protected]