With Tith the development of Information and communications technology, India has witnessed increased acceptance of online education over a period of time Many students, working professionals etc. have joined different e-learning platforms to enhance their skills and employability. Several institutions across the world and in India offer online degrees.
Until now, schools were mostly out of the online education environment, but due to the sudden outbreak of COVID-19 they had to adapt to the online mode of teaching in a short period of time. As the pandemic situation became clear, it became evident that the online mode of schooling is going to be the future of education. As education sector is the most affected sector, globally over 1.2 billion children have been out of their classrooms, adapting to the new online mode of schooling. New tools, softwares, with the help of modern technology have been designed to facilitate online mode of learning. Governments too have run several streaming platforms to provide the students with lectures and digital content so that they can learn at their convenience.
Online schooling classes can be delivered through online video streaming where the teacher is able to deliver classes and lecture in live mode. There can also be pre-recorded lecture modules where students are able to get a pre-recorded video which can be viewed anytime.
Scope of Online Schooling in India
India has nearly 1.5 million schools that teaches around 260 million students. It has the world’s second largest school system after China. Online schooling in India is expected to grow magnificently within the next three years. It involves primary, secondary as well as higher education. Internet penetration is going to increase to nearly 735 million users by the year 2021. This will create conducive conditions for online schooling in India. Other factors that are going to provide a boost to online schooling are.
Rising Digital India
With increasing internet penetration and internet becoming cheaper for a large number of people, online mode of education is certainly going to get a boost. Internet speeds are also going to be upgraded with coming of the optical fibre internet services in urban areas and the government’s target of connecting the entire rural areas till the Panchayat level through its BharatNet Program. This will increase accessibility to internet services which will allow the people to easily access online schooling classes.
Government Policies and Schemes
The government policies aim to increase the role of online education in India’s schooling. With the announcement of New Education Policy 2020, the government aims to create a separate unit in the Ministry of Human Resources and Development that will enhance capacity building to look after e-education of both school and higher education. Besides this, the government already runs several portals such as SWAYAM, SWAYAM Prabha, National Digital Library, E-yantra etc. that are engaged in providing good quality digital content to the students. The government has also announced PM e-Vidya service that aims to promote online education across the country. Under DIKSHA platform, it will provide a One Nation One Digital Platform for schools across the country. It will offer e-content and QR code enabled test books for all grades.
Learning Beyond School
in the new age of education, children are not only dependent on their schools for learning. Along with schooling, taking private tuitions is a common characteristics of the Indian education system. Thus, online schooling can be of great advantage to children as it enhances their learning capabilities with the use of new tools and techniques so that the child is able to grasp quickly, saving his/her time and effort.
Increasing Cost of Offline Education
The costs of schooling, tuitions etc. have increased sharply over the past few years. Online education can be a great alternative to traditional mode of schooling as it is cost effective. Only one studio is to be setup to teach thousands of students. It also proves to be an advantage for those people who were earlier not able to send their children to schools because of higher costs or other disadvantages. Acceptability of online classes is also higher for students in the young age. Thus, it can become a game changer as it has the potential to reach a large number of people at much cheaper costs.
Online schooling breaks all the class, caste barriers and is accessible to all the students. It only requires a good internet connection and mobile or computer device. It does not require investments in huge infrastructure to build classrooms, schools, as well as other facilities. The classes can also be recorded and repeated as per one’s convenience. With the use of graphics, charts, digital boards etc. students can learn the topics of their choice in a much better way. It is accessible to even those students who were earlier not able to go to schools due to various socio-economic barriers.
Personalised and Flexible
Online schooling is flexible. It gives the students adequate time to plan their studies. There is enough scope to digest, engage, practise and learn at their own pace. Students are not under peer pressure and study in a comfortable environment. The teachers can give particular instructions, address specific issues of a particular student in a much convenient manner. This increases the confidence of the student as they do not need to be under the pressure of the class or group to which they belong.
Limitations of Online Schooling
Even though online schooling has huge potential but it is not devoid of limitations. It requires good time management skills and may create a sense of isolation for students due to the absence of social interaction and puts the onus of learning on the students themselves. The following limitations prevents the successful implementation of online schooling
Lack of Internet Connectivity
Still crores of children in India are not connected to any internet services. The costs of internet services is higher for the disadvantaged sections of the society. Mobile devices and computer devices are still out of reach of students in India. Slow internet or absence of any internet services becomes a hinderance in accessibility.
Lack of Digital Devices
Online schooling requires a mobile, computer or tablet device. Number of computers, tablets or smart devices is still very low in India. Moreover, students do not have their personal devices and the devices are mostly shared among the siblings or the parents and the children. This is a disadvantage for those students who can not afford to buy a separate device for their own use. Further, computer devices are still costlier in India due to lesser demands . Along with the computer or phones, students may also require a supplementary device such as a printer or scanner which adds to the cost.
Online education reduces personal face-to-face as well as social interaction between the students and the teachers. It may hinder the development of interpersonal communication as well as social skills of students. In an informal environment, the students may also become more dependent and demotivated. It also results in many types of disorders that are physical as well as mental in nature. Children are also at health risks as it may cause headaches, watery eyes, back pain etc.
Lack of skills and Training
Accessing and using online tools is not easier. It requires adequate skills and training. If the teachers are not able to impart online instructions successfully it will lead to unsuccessful learning outcomes that affects the development of students. Imparting skills and necessary training to teachers as well as students require time as well as expenditure. This adds to the costs of initial expenditure that requires setting up of studios, buying digital devices and setting up a robust Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure.
No Practical Skills
In online schooling, students are not able to attend the labs and carry out practicals as there is no provision to do so. Practicals form an essential part of curriculum of schools and they are useful in building the applied knowledge of students. Lack of laboratory practicals may also demotivate students as they are not able to apply the theoretical understanding to any use.
It is clear that the pandemic period has utterly disrupted the education system that was prevailing in the form of traditional methods. However, the current crisis has acted as a bridge to encourage digital education. Institutions need to be better equipped digitally as well as students need to learn digital skills for their betterment and improving quality of their learning,
The emphasis on online education has to be accompanied with changes in curriculum, textbooks, teacher training, examination systems and pedagogy. The scope and reach of online education, can be broadened to far greater horizons than ever imagined. Evaluating both the pros and cons of online learning will facilitate better preparations to face the challenge of working in this new environment as well as embrace the new opportunities that it has to offer.
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