Offline Education to Virtual learning: No replacement for classroom

Virtual or online learning provides various channels such as mail, online chat and video conferences, through which students and instructors can interact with each other. In the classroom, there is only one channel to communicate with each other. Many students have a visual memory and seem to learn more willingly and are interested in online modes of teaching. Virtual learning is opted these days due to the shutdown of schools and institutions. It is beneficial to an extent because it does not require waking up early, there is no fear of getting scolded and one can study in a comfortable manner. But, a teacher-student relationship can be best established in a classroom only. The interaction and the questions a student asks the instructor in the class cannot happen in an online interaction. Virtual learning offers a good substitute to classroom learning in the time of emergency but it cannot replace the classroom. Classroom learning still remains the main option as discipline can be taught through it and it is a better mode of imparting education classroom teaches life skills. The need of the hour to conduct virtual classes as the situation calls for it. But, in my opinion, classroom teaching will always be preferred over virtual classes as juniors or young adolescents learn much more. Daily interactions with teachers and peers improve their skills to deal with and teach them how to live in a society. Moreover, schools organise competitions and exams which result in the formation of skills required in day-to-day life
Both forms have their own place: Both virtual learning and classroom lessons have their own importance. In these times of pandemic, virtual learning is more important so that the education of children is not hindered. Classrooms are important as the children sit together and concentrate on a particular topic. They are able to learn new skills in such an environment and the teacher has their full attention.
Many distractions in online learning: Online education is a necessity these days. Although it gives a student an opportunity to learn, it also distracts them. Once the educational lessons are done, they start surfing other things. Hence, the impact of learning is uncertain and not always optimum. Education is not limited to the syllabus only; it also includes discipline, manners, morals and interaction with other students and teachers. These traits are difficult to inject through online teaching. In fact, I am of the opinion that the education system in schools should not be much inclined towards smart classes. Rather, in every school, some time should be devoted to teach moral values and discipline. Moreover, access to online platforms is not healthy for the students as their ability to remember and retain information diminishes.
The biggest disadvantages of learning through e-platform are that it requires technology and gadgets that not every student can afford.
May be not perfect, but serves the purpose: In such times when desperate measures are being taken, virtual learning has proven to be a shred of hope for the students and teachers. I am undertaking six months of industrial training via virtual classes. We can outline that this method has its pros and cons. For instance, in this virus outbreak, many software solutions and applications such Zoom, conferencing. Technical resources and facilities to aid the learning process can be shared, but we can only interact virtually, whereas classroom learning involves direct interaction between the students and the instructor. We also need to take care of the fact that the software or application used for the virtual classroom is secure. Moreover, virtual classrooms have some requirements, like a steady internet connection and an interface such as laptop/computer or a mobile phone. Hence, virtual learning may not be a convenient option for the economically weaker section. Virtual learning may not be as perfect as classroom learning, but in a pandemic.
Not everyone has access to internet: In current times, most of the institutes have switched to online classes. But it has a drawback that not everyone can access online education. In remote areas, many people don’t own Android phones or gadgets, which is a harsh reality. Also, there are some who have these gadgets but are unable to pay the price of the data packs. Though the teachers send assignments in WhatsApp groups, but the students are experiencing difficulties as there is no direct contact or interaction with the teacher. Sometimes, the signal is lost and the class is missed. Virtual learning is useful but not successful. One of the reasons is the lack of preparedness for it. The other is the unavailability of the books as the new session had to begin and students didn’t have the material for their next class.
Something is better than nothing: Virtual learning by no means can be a replacement for classroom learning. But it can be used effectively to enhance the learning process. Due to the lockdown, many schools and colleges have started online classes but things like understanding the concepts, clearing doubts, interaction with the teacher are not possible in online classes. The environment of a classroom is quite different and it itself makes learning effective. But as something is better than nothing, it’s good to have virtual classes in this period.
Online teaching can harm the eyes of the students: Online teaching is a good platform but it is not for everyone. It has some requirements like a good internet connection and an interface, but not every student can afford these things. Lack of accreditation and low quality is another problem. Moreover, the blue screen of these gadgets can affect the eyes of the students if one continues to look at the screen for a long duration. There is another drawback that a teacher cannot monitor the body language of the students and ensure their focus.
Digital learning is inevitable: Owing to the lockdown, the education system has shifted from classroom teaching to virtual teaching to avoid learning gap. This was inevitable as we can’t step out of our houses. College and university students can adapt to this mode easily as they have their own smart phones. Early learners can gain access to digital learning with the help of their parents. This in no way will ever substitute the need of a teacher though.
Classroom learning better than virtual learning: Amid the lockdown, we have no other option but to opt for virtual learning. That’s why most of the institutions are holding virtual classes. If compared, classroom learning is better than virtual learning because the latter involves many technical problems. Teachers give lessons online but are not able to keep a check on the students. Virtual learning is good but only if it is clubbed with classroom learning.
Online teaching: Best way to impart education right now: All educational institutions are shut owing to the lockdown because of which students are unable to go for classroom learning and have to instead opt for online classes. Online learning is an interesting medium as students can attend classes taught by teachers from across the world. If one doesn’t understand a concept taught by one teacher, he/she can refer to another one. We can even get a three-dimensional view of objects online which helps us understand certain scientific concepts better. Amid such critical times, online teaching is the best way to impart education.
Collective effort important: In India, we don’t have a lot of experience in digital learning but we had to resort to it as finding a substitute for classroom teaching was the need of the hour. The concept of online classes is not new but amid the COVID-19 lockdown, it has become our only option. Digital classes are managed through app management systems. Regular feedback from parents plays a major role. A collective effort of teachers, students and parents is important to ensure that students’ education is not affected by the pandemic.
Virtual learning is the best option: Instead of halting the process of education, virtual learning is the best option amid lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. Though the online platform is not as convenient as classroom teaching, but it is still very effective in educating students during these difficult times. Teachers have been using new tools and technologies to teach pupils. The e-learning platform is the only and the best substitute to classroom learning for now. Besides, it is more innovative and makes learning interesting and creative for students. Therefore, it is important that we support teachers and educators in their endeavors to educate students from home.
Online learning follows social distancing: Online mode of learning is the best choice during the pandemic as it adheres to the norms of social distancing as laid down by the government as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus. However, it does have a few backdrops, including lack of technical awareness among students and network issues during online sessions. Also, under regular circumstances, classroom learning is a better choice as a teacher has full control over the class and there is much better communication among teacher and students.
Online classes will help students complete syllabus : Switching onto online learning is a great step taken by education institutions amid lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. E-learning will enable students utilise their time and cover the syllabus on time. This method will ensure that students spend their time productively during the tough times. It’s important that we appreciate the efforts of institutions and teachers who are working recklessly towards betterment of students.
E-learning saves time, money and energy: Technology has narrowed the bridge between virtual and classroom learning in the modern world. Unlike traditional mode of learning, e-learning saves times, money and energy. It is the most preferred method that promotes knowledge enhancement among students while they are in their comfort zone. On the other hand, classroom lessons are good for primary students as they learn to become disciplined and follow a daily routine. In classrooms, students learn about their weakness and strengths besides focusing on social interaction as a means to boost self confidence.
Repeat recorded lectures to understand concepts: Teaching and learning in a virtual classroom is a unique experience both for teachers and students. Online classes are more effective as compared to the offline ones as these save students’ time and money. In a virtual set-up, students only need to go through a video to understand the topic instead of spending hours at school as in a classroom set-up. The best part about online learning is that the students can watch recorded lectures as many time as they want to understand a concept better, which is not possible in regular classrooms.
No substitute to classroom learning: There is no substitute to classroom learning. Though teachers are doing their best to help children in all ways, but it is not possible to handle so many students on a virtually platform. Online learning is helpful to complete written work only. It is not effective in getting an individual’s doubts cleared. Besides, its biggest drawback is that it makes students more prone to using gadgets, which thus affects their health.
Effective in times of crisis: Online learning is an effective mode in times of crisis. However, it is not as impactful as classroom learning in general. Studying requires coordination between a teacher and students, which is possible when the two are in a face-to-face set-up. In classrooms, students can learn about concepts better and get their doubts cleared easily.
Communication is better in classrooms: Some students feel that classroom lessons are more effective as compared to virtual learning. In classrooms, students can interact with their teachers and ask them questions. However, during online classes, communication is hindered as students and teachers are sitting remotely at their homes. The biggest disadvantages of learning through e-platform are that it requires technology and gadgets that not every student can afford.
( The author is a retired Principal at Govt Girls Senior Secondary School MHR Malout Punjab .Views are his own)


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