I remember, when I was preparing for my New York bar exam, I enrolled for an exam preparation course called BARBRI. After I got the course books, I had to go to a learning center, where every morning instead of a real professor walking in to the classroom to teach me, a video would be switched on. An instructor would come on the TV screen and for over 2 hours would instruct us on some nitty-gritty of NY state law. As the course wasn’t interactive, the lectures were simple, precise and foolproof. Once every couple of weeks, a living being would walk in to clear doubts. I did pass the exam and never really missed the physical presence of a professor instructing me on the course curriculum.
Two decades later, technology has evolved and how! Today my son does most of his chess coaching on Skype with a chess tutor who sits in a remote part of India. On occasion, he’s stepped into some chat application to hear a grand master having an interactive session with people from the world over on chess My niece did her SAT tutorials on Skype with a group of different teachers who would come online based on their area of expertise. A friend of mine did an online course in music and vocal singing where she was assessed and reviewed by a prestigious music school in another continent. She would send video recordings to her voice coach who would give her feedback electronically! The course left her fully satisfied and gave her an opportunity to hone her music skills with the help of a faculty she would have never had access to in India. My yoga teacher says she is increasingly conducting online yoga classes for students in different parts of the world.
Recently a school in Mumbai, for the first time sent instructions on how they were to log on to various applications (Google Classroom and Zoom) to stay up to date with course work, as schools are shut on account of the coronavirus. The school authorities predicted hitches, but the fact that the school for the first time in its long and beautiful history decided to move away from the traditional classroom methodology to a distant learning method, is remarkable. After the initial hiccups, the online class was an outstanding success. They were interactive, exciting and most productive. Most kids logged on, some teachers, you could see how the school was prepared to conduct the class on the new platform and for the most part it seemed seamless and exceptionally conducted.
Black Swan moments require unconventional responses and one of the unintended consequences of this terrible tragedy is going to be how it will disrupt classroom education.
For years, I’ve wondered why we haven’t been more embracing to distant learning.. more productive, super efficient, less time consuming and good for the health and well being of the child – they get to sleep more, do not spend hours in traffic jams, and get more time to pursue other hobbies and interests. Of course, the peer group of school, the lessons on life- managing people, real interactions can only happen in the physical classroom. However, distant learning has some merits which should be acknowledged and harnessed by educators the world over.
Necessity is the mother of all invention. Coronavirus is teaching the world so many things including social distancing, washing hands, our fragility, our myopia, and our stupidity. The list is endless and there is going to be a collective sigh of relief when this pandemic subsides. However, when all this is over (sooner, rather than later) one hopes that traditional educators incorporate digital learning into the teaching pedagogy, embracing it as the future of education.
Sameera Khanna Vasudeva
Sameera is a graduate from National Law School of India University and postgraduate from University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. She currently works out of home and is a full time parent of a 11 year old.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of EducationWorld.