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  • Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla

Technology has kept doors open for learning during COVID-19

If I ask you ‘What did you learn at school today?’ what would you tell me?

Was it subject knowledge that you grasped during class? A trick your friend taught you, your engagement in extra curricular activities or your involvement in a charitable event?

Schools play a crucial role of transmitting knowledge in our society. It’s not just a place for a child to learn to read and write, but also an environment that has a huge impact on altering traits and shaping a child’s personality. Most of us have experienced classroom curriculums that enabled the teacher to understand a child’s trouble by a quick glance.

It isn’t just an academic curriculum that students learn from. To young adults, schools often serve as a safe environment to make mistakes as they practically understand and learn about the social expectations and rules, with interaction with one another. This lays foundation for children to develop a personal identity, along with a shared national/international identity. Kids from diverse backgrounds come together as one society, who is deliberately prepared to be the future generation with responsible citizenship roles.

A middle-school mathematics teacher, working at the Canadian International School in Beijing, returned to Canada and started teaching online during this pandemic. In an interview with Ms. Kimberly Eichhorst, she said, “I miss the classroom energy of having everyone side by side. Everything happened really suddenly, there was no time to prepare the students or ourselves. It was like we went on being a holiday to having to adapt to online learning.”

With COVID-19, schools have quickly moved from its traditional ways to online education. The anticipation of several hundreds of thousands of students and teachers having migrated into the academic cyberspace could be an alteration in the traditional educational system that might persist post this pandemic.

Trying to minimize any disruption to the children’s education and making the most of the situation, teachers all across the globe are coming up with effective and creative ideas to educate remotely. While some people believe that this sudden and unplanned switch to online education, with limited preparation, training and insufficient bandwidth may lead to a poor learning experience for children. Others believe that this could be the updated hybrid model for a better learning.

Even today, technology is an asset to a few in several countries and the lower income brackets within them. Although, most part of the population of Canada has access to a mobile device and connection to the Internet, there still remain several students affected. Children do not have a very good attention span and not every child has a parent/guardian available to help them stay on track. This online means of education is not very inclusive at this point. It is especially taxing for students who are not very fluent in English or students with disabilities. Some of these students under normal circumstances would have the support of a teacher who is physically present, a nurse and few classroom aides.

“Our greatest challenge was getting everyone started without any advance preparation. Most teachers and students have no knowledge about online learning. But I’m glad that we’ve had technology to help us continue learning and there is access to teachers and classmates,” said Ms. Kimberly Eichhorst.

According to the general consensus on children, a child requires a structured environment to avoid distractions. We would need to build further from merely replicating physical classrooms through video conferencing to a more personalized and inclusive system consisting of collaboration tools and methods of engagement.

This pandemic has surely taught us the value of distributing knowledge across all parts of our society, organizations and borders. Online learning technology has played an important role here, while this is just the beginning, it is imperative that we explore it to its fullest potential. For those students with proper access to technology, online learning can prove to be highly effective in several ways. Some research has shown that a student retains about 25-60% more efficiently while studying online as compared to only about 8-10% in traditional classroom learning. Online learning enables students to study at their personal pace, in the order of the concepts they like or for the time duration for which they would like to accelerate at.

“We have learnt a lot about independent learning and online teaching. I’m still hoping to go back to normal so much that I don’t want to think of having to consider alternates,” said Ms. Kimberly Eichhorst.

This pandemic has been an utter disruption to the education system around the world. With Information Technology to our rescue during the lockdown, online learning has emerged as a new genre. Only time will unfold if this switch to online learning could overtake the regular school curriculum to form a more effective delivery of education. Or this hasty transition may not be able to overcome its issues of lack of interaction and activities, discipline, lack of time commitment, greater dropout rate and limited course specific equipment, making learning monotonous. A middle path however, seems likely as we already were on our way to referring to several online services for education.



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