Virtual Learning is the New Normal

-Dr. Moushumi Bhattacharjee

The Covid 19 pandemic has turned out to be a dual toned virus, which has not only affected the education sector but also opened up new vistas for a new way of delivering education – the online platform. The spate of the Corona virus has forced people across the world to rethink and reposition their daily lives from school to entertainment, from workplace to marketplace.

The last five months saw the education system across the globe change dramatically with the distinctive rise of e-learning. The teaching process is now undertaken remotely from the safe environ of our home through digital platforms. The term Technology-Enhanced learning (TEL) is used to describe the application of technology to teaching and learning. Video conferencing applications is one amongst them which have currently been viewed as the ultimate solution by many educational institutions to connect with their students in real time and the students are also gradually adapting to this change.

As per a recent research report published by Report Ocean, the Global Video conferencing market is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2% for the forecast period 2019-2026. Researchers highlight that the most intriguing feature of this system of learning is that it gives the children the advantage of learning at their own pace, moreover the teachers find additional resources in their hands to impart lesson to the students, and above all technology keeps the students engaged.

Interactions in online learning platforms could be humanised by adding a synchronous component to it. Synchronous learning enables a learner to have real-time interactions with his/her classmates and instructor at a specific virtual place, through a specific online medium, at a specific time. The tools that can be used here are video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Webex etc.

Asynchronous learning on the other hand is through digital assignments and instructional videos. Blended learning (BL), or the integration of face-to-face and online instruction (Graham 2013), is widely adopted across higher education with some scholars referring to it as the “new traditional model” (Ross and Gage 2006, p. 167) or the “new normal” in course delivery (Norberg et al. 2011, p. 207).

Though initially most of the universities across the globe were unrehearsed to switch to the online mode at the time of government notifications with regard to the lockdown. But the pandemic has suggestively transformed the chalk and duster teaching model to those that are driven by technology. However, it is seen that this new distributed learning environment has its share of demerits also as it could cause students to feel isolated and disconnected by the physical distance separating them. To counter this, it is important that the instructors and the institutions remain connected with each student to keep them motivated and involved in continuing the courses offered with the expected rigor.

Some city based institutions are doing this very effectively and some are yet to be on track. Worth mentioning is the steps taken by the administration of St. Mary’s Senior Secondary School, Maligaon which is regularly keeping a track of its students through the virtual interactions medium. Even the respective class teachers are also seen taking presentations of various assignments through mediums like Google meet or Zoom. Unlike many others the school authorities were seen giving permission to the senior students for organising virtual teacher’s day meet for the entire teaching fraternity. Even the oath taking ceremony of the Captains and Vice Captain’s (for the session 2020-21) of the respective classes, was also held using zoom. After the session, all the teachers shared their input on how to cope up with this pandemic situation. The sessions are actively participated by the Principal and Vice-principal of the school and they both are seen taking an active part in monitoring each and every activity of all the classes concerned.

As part of the new normal situation when physical classrooms are getting converted to virtual e-classroom spaces, one question which we all might be discerning about is whether for the student going children this shift from ‘physical to virtual’ and ‘virtual to physical’ would be easily amendable?

Dr.MoushumiBhattacharjee – An Independent Researcher and Folk Media Enthusiasts.

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