Online Teaching During The Pandemic

By: Milton, Diamond

Published On: September 05, 2021

Schools have been closed for almost 18 months now since we first heard the words, “pandemic” and “Covid-19”. Its after-effects led to the introduction of online learning, and had many students and teachers alike miss schools or colleges, which up until 2020 had been a part of their everyday life. The shift to online learning can be considered abrupt and it definitely took some time for teachers, students and even parents to become familiar with. 

Benefits of online learning

  • Online learning is indeed safe as it helps in maintaining social distance, however it is no revelation that experiences that come with non-verbal cues and communication, social interaction and physical activity cannot be found in online classrooms.

  • Research has shown that students retain 25-60% more study material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in a classroom. This means that most students are able to learn faster online because they have the freedom to study at their own pace. 

  • Another advantage of online learning is reduced financial costs. Online learning is far more affordable as compared to in-person learning as many students and teachers save time and money on travel. 

  • Additionally, availability of study materials online, created a paper-free mode of education which is beneficial to the environment.

Drawbacks of online learning

Online learning had its own disadvantages, many of which had a drastic effect on students as well as teachers.

  • Learning online brought a digital divide that translated into some real consequences as many students didn’t have access to the internet or digital devices. 

  • Online classes also affected the health of students; a survey on high school students in Kerala has shown that around 36% of students reported headache and 28% of them had eye fatigue. While 36% of students complained of neck pain, 15% of students were concerned about vision problems. 

  • During the first few months of online classes, there were many reports of teachers being harassed and bullied online. Some students created accounts on Zoom with vulgar names to harass teachers while others played inappropriate videos to disrupt online classes. More often than not, teachers had no way of knowing which student was behind it and sadly, they were left with no choice but to ignore the bullying and carry on with teaching. 

  • Along with that, there were some teachers who were not paid salaries for months together while others were being forced to take a huge pay cut due to the major economic crisis that followed Covid-19. Moreover, many students could not pay school fees as their families lost livelihoods which in turn had inadvertently affected the income of teachers. Nevertheless teachers around the world have worked tirelessly for the past year to accommodate the students’ educational needs and doing the best they can under the circumstances.

How are teachers coping with the new normal?

The sudden upsurge of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that teachers were never trained to conduct lessons virtually, at least not as effectively as many of them would have liked to be. Nevertheless, teachers strove to come up with new methods to make online classes more interesting and also informative for students.

Introduction of hybrid learning

One reason that teachers thrive in traditional classroom setups is because it is easier for them to gauge the response of students. On the other hand, in online classrooms, teachers have to ensure participation from all students and keep them actively engaged for the entire duration of the virtual class while staring at blank screens. This gets more complicated when we realise that home environments may not always be ideal for online learning - for both students and teachers.

Experts say the ‘new normal’ has opened doors for hybrid learning which is here to stay and is not just a temporary arrangement. The introduction of hybrid learning comes with the ability to bridge the gap between online learning and in-person learning as it combines face-to-face classroom instruction with online activities like videos, articles and presentations. Some schools in India are ensuring that there are no more than 10 children in a class by dividing them into groups which can come on certain days of the week. 

We have certainly grown more aware of the need for a revised education plan that also puts emphasis on providing teachers the required resources to do their jobs effectively. The conversation around the safe usage of technology and of mental health awareness have gained momentum during the pandemic especially in an online learning context. 

Our teachers have been resilient and how! As students, all of us who are working on our degrees, have a favourite teacher or guru that has left a mark on us all these years or because we identify ourselves as individuals who are constantly learning - we can always find new ways to give back to our knowledge-givers. One way is through education crowdfunding which is a faster way of raising funds online. Education crowdfunding helps teachers get their salaries on time, go towards building sustainable infrastructure, help students with technology and fees, and many other causes. All it takes is starting a fundraiser, your story (eg. I am raising funds to provide free therapy and support to teachers in my school) and sharing it with your circle. 

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