Online classes are becoming the new normal for many schools

Online classes is work of a resilient community where schools, teachers and parents—are collaboratively coming together to keep the flame of learning:—burning, writes Autar Nehru

The novel CoronaVirus or COVID-19 as specified by the World Health Organization (WHO) after  becoming the most serious health security threat world over since its outbreak in December last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has brought education system to a grinding halt as the contagion pandemic has necessitated lockdowns and mass closure of education institutions.

The silver lining in this otherwise depressing outbreak and onslaught on humanity has been presence of online education platforms, education technology and online education resoruces. National online education platform SWAYAM, which is a MOOCs platform of the ministry of HRD and curated by education establishment from school to university level is seeing a spike in users. The 22 SWAYAM Prabha DTH TV channels, which offer content from class 9 onwards to university level, have also been touted as useful interim arrangement for coping with the classroom disruption.

Meanwhile most tech savvy schools, colleges and universities in private sector have taken advantage of the technology and quickly switched over to online mode for delivering lectures, lessons, assignments and even some routine assessments. Zoom, WebEx, Loom, Google classroom, Skype and other available tools are being used to deliver lessons in a virtual classroom mode. And for many schools virtual school with a routine timetable has become new normal. To invigorate the online classes, teachers are leaving no stone unturned to ensure joy, warmth, and humour while video conferencing with the students.

Though there is no replacement to direct human interaction, the virtual classes are seeing  a smooth transition from the conventional classes for these schools. “This transition to the virtual mode is an outcome of the collaborative efforts of the school management, teachers, students, and parents. Meticulous planning, frequent parent-teacher interface via WhatsApp, reliance on online resources and most importantly, the learner’s enthusiastic involvement is indeed inspiring elements in the collaboration,” feels Nidhi Bansal, Pro-Vice Chairperson, Pacific World School, Greater Noida.

Pallavi Uphadhyaya, Principal, DPS Rajnagar Extension (Ghaziabad), goes beyond this emerging reality and thinks that the video interaction has provided an edge to the entire learning system as it has made students explore more learning platforms and implement ideas that they have never tried before. “The lockdown situation would have proven to be very boring had there been no E-learning for these young minds. Attending online classes is easy and comes with the comfort of homes. This is also reflecting a positive impact on their attendance,” she adds.

Parents are playing the most crucial role in this transition and schools and parents have come together in this unparalleled crisis and helped in roll out of online classes.  Through a passionate outreach teachers contacted parents through whatsapp and other interactive discussions and coordinated the whole work.  This has also provided teachers to learn new skills and digital technologies. Sangeeta Hajela, Principal, DPS Indirapuram, says, “The quarantine period has made our teaching staff and students more proactive. Video and reference links are being shared with students before the class to give them a gist of the whole session; it also provides them a window for preparation leading to increased participation during class assignments.” The teachers are also encouraging students to explore creativity, enjoy family bonds, play indoor games, learn new skills, practice yoga, read e-books, eat nutritious food and stay safe at home.

Priyanaka Barara, Principal, Delhi International School, Dwarka while elaborating on this dimension adds, “The students are learning well as their online orientation allows them to singularly focus on studying without interpersonal distractions. Although, school is a platform where the student develops his skill set not just on the basis of academics but from their peers and extra- curricular activities as well. The endeavour is to be able to inculcate all the facets of learning online and engage students positively in such times of crisis”

The COVID-19 lockdown has put our strength and resilience to a test by interrupting our daily lives, and these are indeed a difficult time for all of us. But education and schooling has found a way to beat the disruption. While we all pray for a speedier cure and end to this pandemic, the young learners are experiencing a culture shift, which in the long run will popularize online teaching/learning processes. Stay safe at home!