Is online education here to stay?

The pandemic has been a major disruptor in education systems across the world, but are virtual classrooms just a fad?

Is online education here to stay?

Written by Kajal Iyer

A World Bank report says that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in over 150 countries and affected 1.6 billion students. Poocho decided to decode the experience of students who pursued a variety of online courses during this time. While some schools and colleges have tentatively started offline classes, with the virus still not completely eradicated, there is always a chance of closure of educational institutions; which is why most of them are still equipped with a hybrid mode for studies.

But is online education going to be just a pandemic fad or is it here to stay? The research conducted by RAND Corporation seems to suggest that there are a number of parents, students and teachers who would prefer to continue in the online mode.

A 22-year-old female MBA aspirant who took online coaching for CAT, seemed to prefer the online mode. Speaking to Poocho, she said, “I think it gives us more time. It saves us from travelling and it saves us a lot of peer pressure; unnecessary negativity that surrounds us. I think it's going great. It also has some inconveniences but I think now I'm kind of okay with it. Like sitting in a room and only focusing on what I want to do.”

While this young lady seems to like the extra concentration a lonelier studying atmosphere gives, not all are fans of this student and screen alone kind of experience. In his piece in Inside Higher Ed, Peter C Herman argues that students are resistant to a permanent online set up. He did a survey with his own students who reported a lack of learning, understanding and an assured structure that helped learning prior to going online.

An MBA aspirant who studies at ICFAI, underlined the mid-course shift from offline to online to Poocho in this manner, “Retention is less. Level of concentration has gone down drastically. You know, when you went to college, you had a purpose that, okay, you have to wake up, you had a proper routine that was being followed. This is not there anymore. If I have a class at 9:30, I'll probably wake up at 9:30. Because we have five minutes of window ki bhai theek hai, you can be five minutes late. I just turn on the class, go freshen up, and then attend the class. Yeah, that purpose is not there. When the class is not that interesting, or something like that. But yeah, that is one thing that is also missing. Discipline is missing.”

Doubt resolution in the online mode featured prominently for most students. An SSC aspirant Poocho spoke to said online classes made it difficult to access what was being taught. “The thing with me since I was a kid, is I have like, you teach me one topic, a small one topic, and I'll put up like, 500 questions. 500 doubts. And in online classes, I can't do it. So it's like quite irritating. In the offline class, you can just go to some library and just get some book. And then you can ask the teacher, that teacher can read the particular part of the book and then explain you but... in online, what you can do is like, just sit and watch.”

However, in a piece in the New York Times, Natasha Singer argues that online mode of education could come as a boon for children with anxiety issues or those scarred by bullying or discrimination. In her report she talks of how many school districts in the United States have decided to invest in long term online solutions to go hand in hand with their offline classes.

With most schools and colleges in India saying they would go fully offline from the next academic year, students will have another round of adjusting to a new normal. Offline or online, the important thing for them is that there should be no learning loss.