COVID19 has caused more destruction than anyone could have ever imagined. What is becoming clear now is that COVID19 has also challenged the traditional school–> college —> university education model. It remains to be seen how education will change in the next decade.
There is unfortunately too much stress on online TEACHING. Webinar after webinar talks of online teaching, online exams, online content creation tools. Teaching is not the goal of education, learning is. Teaching is not for the teacher, teaching is for the student. Nobody is talking about HOW to learn, WHAT to learn, WHEN to learn, WHERE to learn and most important, WHY to learn?
From the school-going student’s point of view these HOW-WHAT-WHEN-WHERE-WHY are the issues. Parents often complain that the child has been given a laptop, an expensive education package and yet the kid is hooked to the TV. Reason is simple. Educational content can never be as entertaining as content on TV or as entertaining as non-educational content on Internet. Nobody is yet creating any educational content that is even as entertaining as the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin or Oliver Hardy, or the more recent animation movies – it wont happen for a long time though. It won’t happen soon because to produce online educational videos we have to involve the subject matter expert, the subject teacher (both can be different people), a script writer, a photographer, a musician, actors, basically the entire team that would make a commercial movie (yes, even producer, financier). How do we teachers do that? We donot have those types of budgets, nor do we all these skills. So our content will not be a match for the content on TV. For some time to come. So someone will have to research why a 10-12 year old kid is hooked onto “Toy Story”, or “Finding Nemo”, yet when he has to “find x”, he hates it.
It will be very difficult to convince children that they have to study on their own. Online education is successful only with another component – self-motivation. If you are not able to motivate a child and if you cannot convince him/her of the need to study online, he/she will not do it or will do it superficially.
At this time, for online education to be successful, even partially, for school going children, I feel that the parents will have to be as much involved in their child’s learning process as the teacher is in the classroom. Just buying a package from thousands of packages available online or one of the millions of YouTubers, will not help school-children. It will be like a commodity – like a packet of pop-corn, over in a jiffy – no value provided. Parents or an elder will have to sit down with the child when the child’s online session starts, and the parent will have to become an active participant in the learning and teaching process, helping the child in bringing his/her ever wandering mind back to the subject. Often the parent may have to pretend that even he/she is learning something new alongwith the child, and ask the child if she/he is able to explain a topic. I feel that in the process, the parent will be a better parent, the parent will also learn the subject as it is taught now, and the child will realise that his/her parent is the best teacher in the world. Even if content from YouTube has to be used, it will have to presented in a linear textbook-style fashion where there is a sequence of topics to study so that learning is meaningful.
So for whom is online education useful? It can be immensely useful for students in junior college (class 11, 12) and undergraduate/graduate classes where the motivation and the WHY to study has already sunk in. I have already written about techniques for online learning here.
These are my thoughts and I realise that others may not agree with me. But that’s OK, please share your viewpoints so that we all learn. Thank you.