I sat staring at the six inch screen on my phone, waiting to be admitted to my online class. Once I entered, I checked for three of my closest friends in the list of people in the G-Meet. One of them was absent. I messaged her on WhatsApp reminding her once again about the class, followed by a conversation on the mundane things in life and then getting back to listening to the professor's voice, which no longer carries confidence, but rather an insecure search to ensure that all her students are indeed listening.
While online education is now the accepted norm for students all over India, things are definitely spiralling towards a more monotonous pace. I suppose things are the most rough for young children who are in kindergartens, now having their teachers explain colours and shapes through screens, with their parents sitting beside silently urging them to choose the right answer. While the student shines in class as brilliant, the mother sighs a relief but the child is left having learned nothing.
However, as much as things seem to be colourless, there are a lot of innovations coming up in the area of E-Learning, which opens up a wide array of opportunities. A quick glance at any employment website on the internet would now provide several positions for online tutors and subject experts. Innovations are cropping up in the field of educational technology every day.
Afterall, necessity is the mother of invention. The pandemic has helped people to create an amalgamation of technology and learning. Learning is possible for anyone at any given time, giving countless options to a person who wants to learn. Most of these opportunities are free of cost. Technology, is however, going beyond our imagination as new modes of teaching are being developed.
Virtual Reality or VR is one such interesting area of development. A Virtual Reality helps to create a virtual world of what a student is learning, which would stimulate all the senses of the student. This might seem like a far away dream for some, however, this could soon be the reality in our near future.
Yet another interesting futuristic prospect is Artificial Intelligence. While we might think of robots teaching students (which might also be possible soon) as impossible, artificial intelligence is already helping many students and teachers. They help in grading students, picking out topics that are difficult to comprehend, conducting surveys and then helping to break down difficult areas to interesting and easier to learn topics.
Interestingly, many e-learning platforms have been quite successful during this pandemic.
An online learning platform that I myself have once used is Skillshare. Skillshare provides a set of different courses across a wide ranging area of topics, from gardening to finance. I followed a particular course on writing personal essays on Skillshare, which was extremely insightful.
LinkedIn also has a learning platform of its own, called LinkedIn Learning. It was previously known as Lynda and has short modules to understand various topics.
Masterclass is all about creativity where you can learn from the best out there. Doesn't cooking with Gordon Ramsay sound fun enough for you? Maybe a little scary. But definitely worth a try.
Unacademy, Byju's and Udemy are some other e-learning platforms. Some of them are more about cracking the different examinations we have in our country, which is also booming ever since the pandemic.
E-learning is definitely the present for us. While citing the several benefits of it, there is always the other side to the story.
Digital divide is one of the most serious causes of concern when learning becomes online. I have experienced it myself several times as I try to present a point and then suddenly the internet service cuts off. Students from remote areas with poor internet connectivity suffer the most, pushing them further to the margins. Sympathy is not the answer here. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that good education is accessible to everyone in the country, regardless of space and time.
Another cause of concern is the declining mental health of students. It is quite natural to have deteriorating mental health when faced with a screen in front of you in isolation when true learning can only happen through real life experiences.
Perhaps brands and technology should focus on providing education and access to technology to everyone alike. Maybe this is how we start building the future for the better.