Expert View

The Road Not Taken : An insight into the online learning journey

Manasvini Sekar

By Manasvini Sekar
Reading Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Fun they had’, I brushed aside the possibility of attending school from home as science fiction. Boy, were we in for a surprise?! One of the most oft-used terms during the pandemic was ‘new normal’ and the new normal in education was the surge in the use of online educational tools. It radically changed educational institutions’ modus operandi.

As a student myself, the journey of online education was a rocky one. After the initial novelty of online classes wore off, the monotony set in. But we continued to go on, keeping in mind that this too shall pass. Students’ and teachers’ whining seemed to have little effect on the pandemic, which continued to persist.

While there were a plethora of reasons to complain, for it is intrinsic to humans, the pandemic forced us to look at the bright side of things; the greener side. It gave us the gamut of online education. A few had the ‘chutzpah’ to explore the new-found arena; the rest had no choice but to attune. But on more critical thought, were we oblivious to the advantages of online education? Or were we perhaps, in denial of a need for adaptability? While you ponder, I’m going to present to you the hidden golden trails of online education; things that assuaged our transition into the virtual form of learning.

  1. Efficiency: Online learning makes lesson material more accessible. It optimizes efficiency since everything is available as a digital copy. Since most classes are recorded, lessons can be revisited by students to clear any conundrums.
  2. Accessibility: Virtual classes made way for distanced learning. Students were able to attend classes and not skip lessons, despite being away from their homes and hometowns.
  3. Affordability: Smartphones or computers are a prerequisite in today’s digital era. People without those are today’s cavemen from the primal world. Online education makes way for people to access education at a much lower cost than physical learning, as it eliminates additional costs like transportation.
  4. Environment friendly: All study material being available online makes way for a paperless environment. Skipping daily commute reduces fuel consumption and your carbon footprint. Powering buildings and classrooms not only costs a fortune but is also bad for the environment. Online education thus reduces the impact of pollution on the eco-system.
  5. Comfort: Online classes not only gave students the comfort of learning from their bedrooms but also enabled us to learn at our own speeds and capacities. Moreover, language customisation tools, allowed us to modify our medium of learning, to ease understanding.
  6. Due to reduced learning hours, students had more time to focus on extra-curricular activities and other aspects of education, leading to holistic learning.

Online education has its cons, no doubts. Excluding the toll on health, socializing drops, lessons are harder to learn due to the lack of interaction, it becomes hardly possible to resist cheating in assessments and et cetera. Online classes also gave us the new dimension of unsupervised learning, which pushed us to motivate ourselves, for no one else, was there to. In a country like ours, education is a privilege. Online education in rural India, thus becomes a far-fetched dream and for it to come true will take years of effort.

Classroom learning provides irreplaceable joys like the two minutes between classes, the long-standing bond with teachers, and the much-awaited lunch breaks, which, if you ask me is all I went to school for. Although these can be experienced through the virtual class to an extent, the physical and social dimension which is absent makes classroom education unparalleled in this sense, unlike in the context of learning.

We cannot control or influence these circumstances. But what we can do is be aware of how we respond to it and what effect it has on us.

Adversity provides opportunities, only if we identify them. Perhaps we might not have transitioned so seamlessly into the virtual platform, if it wasn’t the need of the hour.

Are virtual platforms the future of learning? Will our following generations not know education the way we do? It is impossible to foretell. But what we do know is looking at the optimistic side of predicaments, makes the mountain just a little bit easier to climb. Who knows, perhaps we might even get something out of it.

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IMPACT: Keck Graduate Institute and The Minerva Project