Natasha Garyali is the VP Of MomJunction, a leading global digital platform for millennial moms across India & US. Prior to this, she was the Managing Editor (India) for Dennis Publishing, UK’s leading media house. She has also worked in the US and UK and has completed her graduation from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
The Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent lockdown has disrupted the lives of people across the globe. It has adversely affected multiple industries, as the workforce struggles to regain momentum and strike a balance between staying safe and earning a livelihood. The educational sector is one of the many segments which suffered a setback as a result of the ongoing crisis.
Since the pandemic manifested, all educational institutions have been asked to remain shut to protect students and teachers. Like many other sectors, teaching has also moved online, resorting to virtual platforms and techniques. Initially, this seemed like an effective solution, however, as time passed, a variety of issues began surfacing as students and teachers grappled to cope with the modern virtual classroom set-up.
A nation-wide survey was conducted by the parenting website, MomJunction, which lists down the patterns and concerns of an increasingly virtual edusystem.
- Tech and Wi-Fi woes
The report suggests that 79% parents feel teachers are struggling to familiarize themselves with online teaching techniques. Contrary to popular belief, internet accessibility in India continues to be a challenge, revealing that most people in the country rely on their mobile hotspot instead of broadband services, given the cost and set-up ease of the former. Additionally, online classes require access to gadgets such as laptops and smartphones, which may not be readily available in every household considering the limited incomes. Accessibility issues doubled with patchy internet infrastructure have turned out to be the primary hurdles, slowing down the switch to online education.
- Lack of Digital Know-how
The lockdown and social distancing norms have made most of us switch to online alternatives. One of the major challenges in the virtual learning ecosystem is that it has compelled teachers to adapt to digital substitutes and methods of teaching overnight. Many teachers may not be adept in holding classes online or presenting — as a lot of the educators in our country are accustomed to traditional ways and are not equipped with the necessary skills or trained to conduct online classes. 28% of parents have observed that no training was provided to the teachers prior or during the switch and have flagged their concerns.
- Interactive Virtual Classes
The methodology of teaching in a traditional format differs vastly from a virtual classroom for many reasons. In an online set-up, the teacher is not physically present to supervise children and ensure they are being attentive. Spotting and managing a distracted student in a virtual classroom can be quite a task, therefore online classes should ideally be designed in a more interactive fashion than the offline approach, including Q&A’s, discussions, games and opinion exchange.
Around 49% parents have admitted having to constantly supervise their kids during online classes to ensure participation, whereas 85% parents are spending more time helping their children cope with school-work as opposed to offline classes. Educators should revise their methodology to make students actively participate in the lessons, to relieve working parents of this worry.
Around 41% of the parents have observed that students are facing issues grasping the lessons despite the best efforts of their teachers. Meanwhile, through virtual formats, it has been recorded that, 82% of the teachers have in-depth subject knowledge and understanding
Pandemic Pods and the Evolution of Tuition
Parents are now scrambling for ways to bolster the weakened education system for the sake of their kids. The solution being pandemic pods, where groups of parents invest in a tutor together, since hiring a personal tutor for their child is a luxury not everyone can afford. Though pandemic pods seem to be an up and coming trend, surveys show that there is little awareness about them with even lesser parents investing in it.
There is an ongoing debate among parents and teachers whether the shift from traditional classrooms has hindered or aided the youth’s academic progress. While educators maintain that the progress is stunted, parents believe that online classrooms have helped their children gain a stronger foothold in the core academic front. However, it is still too little early to reach a conclusion given the rapid advancements in technology and the ever-evolving virtual edusystem.