Yogesh Makkar founded Kapdec with a mission of making education possible for everyone. Yogesh, an engineer and an innovator holds an honors degree in Mechanical Engineering from NIT-Kurukshetra, a Master’s in Engineering from the UNL & an MBA from Kelley School of Business. Yogesh is committed to making a difference in a student’s life by providing unique methods, with a global team’s help, to help students learn more and be comfortable with the learning process for lifelong learning. What keeps Yogesh awake at night is only his passion, that is, to deliver a “unique” platform – that, indeed every student anywhere on the “globe” should be able to use.
COVID-19 has significantly changed lives worldwide, from how people work, learn, teach, and deliver or receive an education. The disruptions caused in the academic world forced educators to innovate, experiment, and learn how to teach effectively via remote tutoring methods.
Colleges and university administrators have been busy re-assessing their technological infrastructure, educators’ skills and exploring the benefits of online classes. Even though the pandemic necessitated a sudden transition to the online environment, many higher educational institutions predict a permanent transition to the virtual environment. Online learning is not new; the ivy-league institutions have successfully deployed it for almost two decades; however, a significant transformation is more visible now. While flexibility was one of the main drivers of the growth of virtual learning but safety and cost have been the most promising points in recent times.
However, there are two sides to every coin, and likewise, remote education comes with its pros and cons.
How Virtual Learning Aided Education
Due to the pandemic, months and year-long shut down of the academic institutes or operating at reduced capacity created a considerable disruption in the learning journey. To cope-up with the learning loss, virtual learning came up as a proven and highly effective tool. The concept leverages technology to help with the learning process, rather than solely depending on the in-person, face-to-face mode of interaction between lecturers and students.
Virtual learning/distance learning / remote learning offers many benefits, such as asynchronous or synchronous modes of learning. In the former, learning occurs via online channels without any real-time interaction. In this mode, a student can stream and engage with the educational content anytime and anywhere. Whereas, in the synchronous way of learning, classes are held in real-time where students and teachers interact with each other while using online tools and platforms simultaneously.
This unique option of asynchronous/ synchronous learning is a boon for those students who work during the day and have no time to attend classes. At the same time, many other benefits are low cost, time and place flexibility, broader access to the programs, growth in the peer to peer learning, access to quality instructors, and access to a wider audience by the instructors. All such that can only be made available to students in remote education.
In addition to attending online classes, students can also access digital platforms and learning materials designed to support their capacity and aptitude. With the help of videos, online notes, e-books, tutorials, all available in one place with the click of a button and is easily affordable; students can very well look beyond textbook learning.
However, each transformation presents its unique challenges and demerits, and so does online learning.
Virtual Learning – Challenges & Impact
An essential and basic requirement for a successful online learning program poses a challenge for the students. Remote learning requires students to be disciplined, organized, and strong communicators. At the same time, crisp and clear communication is expected from educators. A slight miscommunication by the instructors can escalate to more extensive confusion and eventually impacts everyone involved. If not handled well, it can lead to a sharp drop in grades. Which, in turn, may further impact the morale and confidence of a learner.
Another challenge is academic integrity. While there are many tools available to detect plagiarism and detect cheating while taking and conducting exams, there are still many challenges in this aspect of learning and assessment.
Upskilling of the faculty members is another critical challenge. A vast majority of educators found themselves in a tough spot as transitioning to new teaching methods required them to “unlearn” and “re-learn” ways of teaching. It meant becoming hands-on with technology and the interface of their educational institution’s chosen application. They were also required to learn how to use various controls to regulate class dynamics and conduct their core task to disseminate knowledge. For many who weren’t so tech-savvy, just a few hours of formal training was never enough to become adept at using the application. Therefore, upskilling of faculty will remain a task just as crucial as integrating new technology.
The digital framework will be another dimension that remains at the forefront. Despite being counted as the second-largest online market globally, the penetration of the internet in India and especially in the rural sector requires tremendous work. There is a need to address this digital divide and bridge the gap by promoting quality internet access across all income groups. Hi-speed internet is no longer a luxury anymore. It is a necessity for survival.
And lastly, learning educational content is just one part of the overall learning process. The virtual environment cannot easily replace the informal social settings provided on-campus. Courses requiring hands-on training or dealing with lab or technical equipment are not easy to replicate via online instruction.
Future of Higher Education
Migration to virtual learning is progressing exponentially and will continue with the same trend even in the foreseeable future due to the ongoing pandemic and changing educational trends. Universities and community colleges will keep expanding their tech resources and infrastructure to accommodate the online instruction demands and evolving student needs. A hybrid model is touted to be the future of higher education, wherein students would get the advantage of the classroom and online teaching mode turn-by-turn. And with the rise of online and hybrid instruction, there will be a rising need for agile and adaptable spaces that can accommodate various uses. Though vocational and technical training and laboratory instruction will be held using digital tools, they will remain tied to the physical environment because of the kinaesthetic and tactile needs of the courses.
In conclusion, it can be said that the global pandemic is accelerating the transformation of higher education, forcing our society to revisit and rethink the existing educational models, their real value, and how they are delivered. For better or worse, virtual learning is here to stay. Higher education will continue to evolve and reinvent itself to adapt to the new-age educational and instructional models.