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Online Education: A Boon or a Curse?

The last two years changed everything for the whole human race. Except for the time when nations were at war with each other, no other event has so deeply affected every aspect of people’s lives, leaving no exception from the young to the old, rich and poor, rural-urban, and retirees to workers to students. Although everyone suffered one way or the other whether it be financial woes or losing loved ones, Earthlings being the stubborn lot we are found ways or juggaad, as we love to call it, to survive and then thrive. People helped each other whether individually or through organisations, for maybe the first time actual useful information was shared in WhatsApp groups about the essential oxygen supplies, and almost everything moved to the virtual world. Except for the front line workforce, every other person was expected to take care of their business in online mode. Well maybe for the 9-5 office workers it was a welcome change to finally catch a break in the initial months, families were coming together, and people actually spent quality time with each other; then the new became the old and the tested, and back to overwhelming meetings and deadlines it was, although on Zoom or Meet.

The group which was affected in the most extreme way were the school goers, from children in primary to seniors to Master students. Education along with other essential items was being delivered home, through the doorstep in any room you would like. One hour classes were reduced to half of that, or even less as old and new teachers had to learn the ropes of these platforms with the help of the young ones, the students became the teachers for a while. Scanning assignments, sharing pictures of homework, online submissions and presentations became the norm. While for some these scheduled classes or online school provided a sense of stability and normalcy in the otherwise tumultuous times, others missed out because they themselves were sick or taking care of family members, or did not have the resources to attend which became another source of worry.

But life goes on, and things are almost back to pre-pandemic normal, with some students rejoicing the opening of schools while some dreading it, so let’s look at the pros and cons of Online Education; whether it is a boon or a curse.

The Negatives of Online Education:

Home is not a classroom- homes and houses are not always peaceful places, where one is left in solitude in their intellectual pursuits. It is a place where everyone is at their most comfortable, people need others' help, with distractions every minute. It is very easy to lose focus, and get sucked in the family drama or the family next door’s drama. And as not everybody can afford one smartphone per person in an average Indian household, there was a shortage or complete absence of devices for one child or several children of one household. And in the remotest corners of our country where there is barely any network connectivity to make a phone call, despite what deceiving advertisements would have you believe, students were expected to attend six hour lectures on 2G data.

Inability to focus- Even if luckily one was left alone with their devices to focus on the classes, there was no telling if a young one with the window to the world in the palm of their hand could resist the call of the internet. Because there was no way that students could be disciplined of something that the teacher was completely unaware of, there was a lot social media and gaming could offer that Hindi and Maths simply did not. And it did not do well for the gap in being left behind. For some students there is a need to physically be there, to understand and retain, to raise queries without being worried about personally calling up your teacher, who also suffered because of Online classes.

The Positives of Online Education:

Convenience- This was the biggest plus point for this medium of education. No one had to leave the safety and comfort of their homes, commute for hours, spend thousands on accommodation, and just had to wake up five minutes before the class and log in. Overseas prestigious universities also started offering courses online, sometimes even free as the borders were closed. Online directories/libraries made books and other materials readily available, teachers themselves provided readings, and lectures could be recorded, with the teacher’s consent, for later use in case students were unable to attend.

Easier to learn- For some, visual cues make concepts easier to grasp and they were able to learn things quickly, through presentations, almost as if they were watching a video. These visual or auditory learners (in case the cameras are off) would have benefitted from the online mode of classes, whereas the offline mode would prove very distractingly drab for them. Also for our specially abled peers, for whom the institutional buildings can sometimes be difficult to navigate, online classes made it easier to attend lectures.

Of course this issue, like all others where it concerns such a massive number of people, is not all black and white. Grey areas do exist, for it must have been difficult to ask people for help when it came to reading material for visually impaired peers. But at the same time it was easier for people with social anxiety to stay away from the chaotic crowds that are corridors, whereas for younger students with mental health issues this break in schedule and routine created developmental issues.

But whoever they were, for or against it, extroverts or introverts, the experience of being shut in at home, cut off from friends and support made everyone look forward to the reopening of the world. Because this is a time in a person’s life which moulds them, how they interact with people, make connections for life, and learn lessons about discipline, time management, social cues which shape the rest of their lives. And I believe that one should be physically present for them to live their life.

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