Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Those who know how to think need no teachers.” Unfortunately, this holds as a poor standard to measure student progress or their development.
We have always had classmates who sat at the back of the classroom, reading a comic or novel, doodling on their notebooks, anything which provided refuge from the learning environment which did not-could not engage them. A very common description which our teachers used was, “Physically present but mentally absent”.
Students today have choices when it comes to their education; education technology has enabled various schools and institutions to develop new models of learning and teaching. A growing number of students are finding academic success via personalized means. But in our society, the definition of school space is the traditional idea of learning in a school building and suburban landscape, involving physical attendance which is rooted deeply in our institutions.
Adopting online education requires a very different and comparatively new mindset, new criteria which could be used to measure academic success, something which includes the nature of teaching, learning, the diverse set of students online education serves and all the unique ways in which they learn. There are many good debates on the advantages of online classrooms and education, it’s also true that not all online courses serve the best interests of the students, mismanagement of courses, server crashes etc.
But, one could also argue about all the problems traditional schools have faced and how they have failed not just a few but generations of students, the yearly pass percentages dropping in every board, some schools/institutions being reported as dropout factories, teacher absenteeism is one of the major concerns in our rural areas (even technology is finding it hard to solve this).
The average Indian teacher is in charge of 40 or more students at a time, each with a different learning capacity, level of engagement and rate of mastery. Now if the teacher were to address the middle of this group its very easy for him/her to lose the students who are at the ends, the fast learners and the slow ones and that’s only if the teacher is present for the day or the term.
Whenever there is a change in ideas that threaten those who are hardwired to existing ones, there is a lot of resistance. Questions such as, how does one know if the student is playing games while he is logged in an online class? How does learning actually happen? What accountability does the teacher have or the student have? Power shortages are common here, how do we maintain flow?
Addressing attendance and engagement must take into consideration the characteristics of students who attend online courses. Online education works particularly well for students who face unique challenges in traditional academic processes. Some are far ahead of their classmates academically; others lag. Both sets benefit from the self-driven pacing that is a particular advantage of online education. Online schools also serve to provide an uninterrupted education to students who live with illnesses or are otherwise unable to attend a local school. Still others choose online education because it saves them from bullying or other social pressures found in traditional schools.
The online teaching space is a collaborative space where teachers have the access to a wealth of data that helps them develop asynchronous lessons, adaptive ideas and practices that are discussed and iterated on, and help inspire both learning and teaching. If anything, online education is a complement to traditional learning spaces. One of the first steps institutions, schools and teachers can take is to digitize. A student management system is a good place to start for schools institutions and teachers who want to try online education. Fedena school ERP is one such software, which helps provide live analytics to help you understand all your teachers’ needs, schools’ needs and take definitive action on time.
As today is Mahatma Gandhi’s jayanti, and as he once said, “Co-operating with the good is as much one’s duty as much as not co-operating with the bad is”, let’s hope that we can explore both traditional and online learning spaces in equal opportunities to help build a better system for our children’s academic success.
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