Welcome to the digital world of online teaching. Whether we like it or not, life has put us on the digital track through this crazy pandemic. Being a teacher myself, since last more than 20 years, and also the Principal of a reputed college, the topic of education is the dearest to my heart. I must admit that technology has been our true enabler to continue the process of imparting education during the pandemic time. This sure brings with it a number of benefits as well as educational challenges.
Students of the current time are called “digital natives”. They have been born and brought up in the digital age and are inherently technology–savvy. Whereas teachers, especially the senior teachers of today’s time are called “digital immigrants”, who were exposed to computers rather late in life. Current students, therefore, happen to be digitally more fluent than their teachers.
As the pandemic took over our day to day lives and on-campus teaching become impossible, online teaching emerged as an obvious choice. Teachers were required to be proactive, they needed to drop their inhibitions and resistance, so as to embrace the new mode of teaching to make it possible to continue the teaching-learning process from the safety and comfort of everyone’s home. For students, in the beginning, it felt like a completely welcome shift. They did not have to travel to reach College, attendance was improved, they had more time at their disposal since a lot of travel time was saved. They had recordings of the lectures made available to them to revisit for a better understanding of a subject. Activities like quizzes, online assignments given during or at the end of a lecture gave them a perspective about their learning of that topic. Students staying away from the College too could attend the classes from their respective hometown without having to come to stay at the hostel. This made online teaching much an affordable option to them.
With a wide range of benefits as these, students and teachers faced many challenges too. Teachers initially found it very difficult to drop the physical classroom ways and to tune in to the new technological demands, especially for practical skill training. Moreover, online teaching felt much less fulfilling both for teachers as well as students. Especially when teaching was done with the videos off, many teachers have expressed that they could not feel a connection with the students and it felt as if they were teaching to a blank wall. Many teachers said that if it was tried to keep videos on, then students faced bandwidth issues. Students have clearly expressed in their feedback about online teaching that they found it less conducive to learning, despite all good attempts to make the lecture interactive, students engagement was less, they felt bored, tired and fatiguing with the excessive screen time, they missed the in-person interactions with teachers and contact with their peers, they found it very hard to keep the attention span and focus, felt isolated, cut off, bored and to some extent depressed and anxious too.
We sure have leveraged through this pandemic with the use of technology to our advantage and even in a safe, non-pandemic future time, we should not regress and go back to older ways entirely. A blended model with a balanced mix of offline and online teaching therefore can surely be a healthy, wise and progressive choice.
As the Principal and professor of a college and a parent to a college-going son, I feel satisfied that the younger generation has learnt to utilise the benefits of online learning and more importantly, they have come to realise the value of in-person human interactions and the energetic bonds of trust and togetherness that such interactions create. Thinking this, I feel grateful for today and optimistic for a more progressive and holistic future ahead.