In March 2020, India began its ordeal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in the disruption of the normal lifestyle of people across the globe. To stop the spread of COVID19 in India, the Govt. of India closed all the educational institutions across the country. At a time, when the face-to-face education of the students got disrupted, the virtual world came to rescue of the students. The education being provided online offered various opportunities to cater the needs of the students residing in remote areas. While moving online for education, India witnessed an E-learning boom.
Various online meeting software’s like Zoom, Google Meet & Cisco Webex were used by educational institutions to cater the needs of students. To compensate the learning loss, the educational institutions framed an online class’s timetable by using the above-mentioned software’s. On the other hand, the higher education institutions started conducting webinars, conferences, and lectures online for benefitting the student’s community at large. This was a measure method initiated by the educational institutes to save the precious time of the students and to motivate the students to learn from home. In online education, the students were empowered and encouraged to post their doubts through virtual platforms which helps teachers in clearing their doubts outside the class hours.
The online education resulted in a great relief for students, but it was not proved helpful for those who do not possess a smartphone. The lack of proper electricity, lack of proper knowledge towards online education and lack of a proper internet connection were also some of the hurdles for online education system. As per survey conducted by NCERT, it was revealed that in India, 27% students do not possess a laptop or a smartphone. About 28% students are not able to study well due to frequent power cuts. About 33% students are of the opinion that they are not able to focus properly on studies during an online class.
Regardless of these problems, there is also another major problem i.e., frequent internet shutdowns or throttling of internet speed which is a major hurdle for online teaching learning process. If internet is suspended or the speed is reduced, the students in that area or region will not be able to compete with other students and will get deprived of online education. As per the Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India report, based on the 2017-18 National Sample Survey, it was found that only 23.8% of Indian households have access to the internet. In rural areas, 14.9% of households have access to the internet whereas, 42% households in urban areas have access internet. Further, it was found that only 13% people in rural areas can use the internet.
The dropout rate in online education is yet another concern. The students need self-motivation for completing and uploading the assignments timely. There are a lot of students who are facing difficulty in working independently and meeting the deadlines. These kinds of students will struggle in an online program.
Based on the findings of the NCERT survey, the Ministry of Education formulated Students’ Learning Enhancement Guidelines. As per Union Minister of Education Mr. Ramesh Pokhriyal, those children who do not have digital resources will get learning opportunities at their homes. The Union minister further said that it will also help in overcoming the learning deficiencies of all those students who are learning at their home through various alternative means like radio, television, or smartphone.
India is now moving towards opening of educational institutions for students and faculty members. Here it becomes the duty of the Govt to provide training to students and the faculty members for online education. The educational institutions should work for the development of E-learning in their institution. It includes conducting orientation programmes for students and faculty members. The need for upgrading the online teaching learning has become a global trend as more and more people prefer it over traditional classes. The online education system has the power to change the future scenario in education. It can prove beneficial if problems like lack of proper electricity, lack of proper knowledge towards online education and lack of a proper internet connection tackled. At the same time, there is need that Government should take proper steps for the development of the online education system.
*Ishfaq Majid, Shazia Kouser and Sheeraz Ahmad Sofi are Research Scholars at Central University of Gujarat.