COVID-19 pandemic effect on education

Online education and its pros and cons
By Aaron Dmello

28-04-2021

COVID-19 outbreak has put the world in the corner. Everyone’s life has pretty much come to a standstill. The world governments are working hard to bring the situation under control and then eliminate the enemy but sour news still pours in from all directions. Amidst all this confusion, the education system has also been adversely affected.

With the emergence of the virus, several businesses and other institutions were shut down. The aim was to contain the spread of COVID-19 and eliminate it post which, hopefully, the institutions would re-open. But, the virus persists and similarly, educational institutions have remained closed.

Given the present situation, the possibility of when the schools and colleges will reopen remains largely uncertain. Meanwhile, exams have been postponed and new graduates are facing unemployment. Thus, even if the corona virus has failed to infect students it has nonetheless impacted the future of 32 crore young citizens of the country and 600 million learners across the world.

But there is a silver lining to the dark clouds gathered overhead. Immediate measures were taken to continue providing education by taking the system online. Many educational institutions migrated to the online mode of communication, taking up classes through apps like Zoom. Although the change was sudden and drastic, it came with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole, this seems to be the only solution to the present problem of the 21st century.

Online education, which was in its nascent stage in India, is now seeing a huge boom. Although the traditional method of teaching is more preferred in the country, the COVID-19 crisis has led to mass migration towards the online mode of education. Besides, online classes do turn out to be profitable to both students and their teachers to some extent.

Advantages of online teaching

It’s convenient

One of the major advantages and appealing factors of online education is its convenience. The students and teachers can attend or take classes from any location of their choice. A lot of time is saved due to the elimination of time spent on travel.

It’s flexible

Online mode of education provides the students and the teachers the chance of choosing the best time to study. The students also have the chance of revisiting a class/lecture which they might have missed or need to revise. The only requirement is a computer or a smartphone with a decent internet connection.

It’s economical

Another attraction of online classes is that it is economical. Online education demands much less infrastructure from an educational institution and consequently brings down costs. The need for an educational institution to reserve a physical location is removed and this translates into a more cost-effective class for the students. Online education also saves time and money by removing the need to travel to a particular location by the students and teachers.  

Tech-savvy

With the sudden move to online education, though challenging in the beginning, it has revolutionized the concept of traditional education. It is helping teachers and students to grow their tech skills.

And yet, despite all its advantages, online mode of education or E-learning also has its fair share of disadvantages. The covid-19 pandemic has caused the largest disruption of the education system in history and like any big problem plaguing a society; has its worst effect on the vulnerable populace.

The virus has reduced the opportunities of people and children living in poor or rural areas, girls, refugees, and displaced persons. Thus, the modern world solution of online education has not solved the age-old problem faced by the poor. Millions of students coming from poor backgrounds throughout the world are currently facing that lack of access to education which consequently will only set them back further along the path of opportunity for a hopefully better future.

Disadvantages of online education

Technology issue

For effective online education, a student must possess a decent computer or smartphone with a proper internet connection. But only possession of the equipment does not suffice, for the student or the parent must also be computer literate. Therein lies the major problem faced in online education.

It may be noted that in India, a huge part of the population is struggling with poverty. The use of technology to educate their children isn’t exactly their prime requisite. Most of such population lies in the rural area and even if they did manage to have access to the required devices, the internet connection is indeed a questionable quest.

The situation is no better in the urban area either. With most people remaining locked up in their houses, the use of the internet increases. This can hit the bandwidth and connections either don’t connect or take their own jolly good time to connect. This leads to another problem mentioned below.

Personalized but less personal

Yes, online education does give you the advantage of selecting your pace of studying at your feasibility but when it comes to school children and the younger generation it leads to an opposite problem.

The online mode of learning reduces the traditional personal interaction between the teacher and the student which in turn increases the communication gap between them. The personal touch of a teacher to a student is hindered by a High-Definition display, but that touch is vital.

During the formative years of the student, this personal interaction improves the student’s communication ability but via online classes, virtual isn’t exactly in-person. Besides, poor internet connection interrupting online classes is another issue to worry about.

Requires strong self-motivation

Online classes require strong self-motivation. Given the fact that the student is at home, distractions are aplenty. And although most don’t like a strict teacher, it is such a teacher within the confines of a classroom, who succeeds in making sure the student gives attention and learns. But at home, such a constant push might go lacking.

Also, in a classroom setup, there exists peer-to-peer activities and strict deadlines which ensures the students don’t fall off-track during studies. However, studying from home will only turn out effective, if the parent performs the duties of a teacher as well. 

Communicational skill development hampered

Online classes can be considered to be highly effective at improving the academic knowledge of the students, but it mostly neglects the development of a student’s communication skills. Given the lack of face-to-face communication between peers, students, and teachers in an online setting, the students may turn out to be unable to work effectively in a team setup.

Adaptation difficulty

Many schools have announced that their classes have moved to the online platform, but this sudden change might turn out to be uncomfortable to both, the students and the teachers. The first issue here is that the teachers themselves aren’t trained or prepared for this entirely new mode of education and hence, they first need to familiarize themselves with the tech and its applications. Meanwhile, the challenge only grows in stature for older teachers who may never have used such a platform as Zoom or any other such apps.

On the other hand, students who were just getting used to their school routine might feel this sudden migration hard to adapt to. First, it might feel liberating but eventually, they might feel like they are stuck in limbo due to a lack of in-person human interaction.

All theory no practical

Online classes are heavy on theory. The students will lack facility of access to labs or libraries. Although the students can be asked to do activities at home, they will nonetheless face a lack of practical experience in a lab environment. 

Also, to mitigate the lack of a library facility, students could be provided with online journals, PDFs to study or refer but over-exposure to screen-time is also a concern.

The challenges faced by the students during these pressing times are not only limited to them. With everyone fighting their own battle with COVID-19, the education institutions too have their work cut out for them.

With the world governments facing an overflowing cauldron of problems, most institutions including private educational institutions have been left to fend for themselves. Below mention are some of the problems that educational institutions are facing due to the Corona virus pandemic

Problems faced by educational institutions

Lack of admission

With the shutting down of all educational institutions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the drastic measure has also brought a full stop to gaining new admission for the institutions. Yes, admissions may be done online but it has its twists and turns.

Since the fees for admission is quite a sum, online payment is not preferred by many due to their inherent dislike or doubt about it. They rather pay in cash but that is not possible during the lockdown. Also, some parents or students prefer to join a school only after visiting it and getting an in-person feel of it which to is not possible in the present circumstances.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty of when or if the pandemic situation will come under control is looming in everyone’s mind and hence, expenses are being brought to a minimum by almost everybody. Thus, in the present scenario, saving one`s money to feed one`s stomach is more a necessity than education and in this backdrop, the private educational institutions take another hit.

Cut in tuition fee

The lockdown has stopped economic activity. Many have even lost their livelihood. But educational institutions need to collect their fees to keep the machine running. However, parents are finding it hard to manage their resources. Amidst all this, some governments have asked private educational institutions to slash down their tuition fees.

Private educational institutions do not receive any funding from the government and hence are completely dependent on the fees they collect. But, forcing them to collect less tuition fee, albeit good for the parents, it puts additional pressure on the institutions making it hard for them to even survive during the pandemic.

Besides, since the education mode has gone online, it essentially has become economical and there’s an argument that now the tuition fees too need to come down. However, the cutting down of fees will in no way bring out an institution from its debt if any.

Maintenance costs

Despite the lack of admission and the uncertainty of fee collection, the private educational institutions nonetheless have expenses to look after. Institutions take loans to further the infrastructure in their campus with the aim to better provide education and facilities.  But, this sudden lack of resources/income can take a heavy toll on institutions. Worst hit by the present situation of uncertainty will be the new educational institutions that have just started.

Conclusion

It is true that the situation looks quite grim however one dices it. This is probably the first time we are facing such a dilemma since the two world wars. And yet, there is hope. The systems might have slowed down, but they are also showing their clogs which when removed is bound to restart everything more vigorously.

The COVID-19 virus has strongly affected the education system, but it has also introduced to computer-aged learning. And as the saying goes “Nothing is Permanent”, the virus too is bound to fade someday. But the changes it has made to the education system are here to stay.

Although online learning/education may not supersede the traditional method of education which is bound to bounce back post the pandemic, the prior will leave its mark upon the latter, and out of this amalgamation may rise an even more effective method of education, interesting, fun and efficient.