Online classes abound in lockdown, human contact missed

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Bengaluru: Amid Covid-19-disrupted academic year, cancelled classes and examinations, students across India are using every technological tool available to pursue studies.

Some of the popular tech tools, enabling online learning through audio and video links, include Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams.

“We, humans, have never experienced anything like this. I am sure most of us were not prepared for such a situation. It’s a first of its kind experience,” Payal, an English teacher at an international school here, told reports.

From school pupils to civil services aspirants to doctoral students, all are engaging in this online learning, happening across the spectrum of education institutions. And the scale is mind-boggling.

With over 14,000 educators powering students to prepare for more than 60 kinds of examinations, online learning platform Unacademy is offering over 1,500 live classes a day.

On March 12, Unacademy, set up by former IAS officer Roman Saini, announced that it would offer 20,000 free live classes to students during the lockdown.

“Live classes on Unacademy platform ensure that education is not obstructed amid the coronavirus pandemic. These classes are available across examinations, like UPSC, banking and railways,” an Unacademy spokesperson told IANS.

According to Unacademy, the effort is aimed at promoting the indefatigable spirit of learners and encouraging students’ determination to crack their examinations.

English teaching app ELSA has associated with 40-50 schools to engage students through their principals to be in touch with the language.

UXReactor, an online training platform with offices in Hyderabad and California, is catering to the needs of UX designers, teaching visual communication, user research, wireframing and prototyping and information architecture.

“After the coronavirus outbreak, we are seeing a decent rise — about 150 per cent — in traffic every week, as more people are looking for opportunities to upskill and reskill during the lockdown,” Prasad Kantamneni, co-founder, UXReactor, told IANS.

Byju’s, Oliveboard, Vidyakul, School of Meaningful Experience, Schoolguru Eduserve, Canadian International School, including fashion designing institutions, like JD Institute of Fashion Technology South, are offering online learning solutions to bypass the lockdown.

Despite the audio and video features the tech tools are offering, most people are of the view that no technology can ever replace the classroom setting and the human to human contact in real.

“My personal experience with online learning has its ups and downs. One positive feature is the mute button, which helps dissolve all the background noise and allows one to listen more clearly. This can’t be done in a normal classroom setting,” said Aryan Jain, 11th standard student of Greenwood High International School.

Despite the advances in technology, Jain said multiple disconnections would take place in an online class, forcing students to say ‘Ma’am you are not audible’.

“As online platforms try to provide interactive class sessions, the proximity with students is missed. Personally, I like the fun group study sessions with friends as they help us share ideas effectively and create an emotional ties between us children that will last a lifetime,” said a student.

Corroborating Jain, Payal said holding the attention of all online students was not easy due to lack of physical monitoring.

Transitioning from Zoom to Microsoft Teams, Payal teaches 10-25 students per online session. “Sometimes when students are asked questions and they don’t know answers, they log out of the session. Students tend to choose the classes they want to be a part of. We have little control over it,” said Payal.

She said in school such mischievous action would not be possible.

With the Covid-19 lockdown uncertainties, it remains to be seen how long online learning will replace the real classroom teaching.

(Agencies)