COVID-19 may have fast-tracked India's transition to online learning, but for it to be a real success, we'll need to bridge a yawning digital divide besides creating a more robust infrastructure, new learning modules and more - Issue Date: Jun 1, 2020

Online transition

To avoid a complete breakdown of the learning process, schools, colleges, technical institutes, universities and even coaching centres have launched online classes to ensure continuity in curriculum and seamless resumption at the end of the lockdown. “There has been a big behavioural shift in the parents’ mindset toward online learning as they have seen their kids benefit from it and find EdTech to be an enabler in their growth,” says Divya Gokulnath, co-founder of BYJU’S. Even during a Zoom call, it depends on the teacher to draw the students’ attention,” says Jayesh Garg, former country head of the Kota-based coaching institute, Bansal Classes, and now an independent consultant. Iconic educational institutes provide students from diverse backgrounds the opportunity to mingle and share ideas and experiences, which goes a long way in making them better citizens and the society harmonious. “How can focusing on a screen supplant the experience of learning from teachers, peers, real-life lessons in collaboration, questioning, social mixing, participation in games, competitions and co-curricular activities?” asks former Delhi chief secretary Chandra. Others advocate the urgent need to rethink the objectives of education and assessments, shifting focus toward measurement of conceptual learning and problem-solving skills, and online examinations can facilitate such a transition. On an early May morning, Jyoti Soni, a 23-year-old student in the fourth semester of her MSc course at Kurukshetra University, was struggling to download on her mobile handset some critical content needed for a seminar paper she was supposed to submit later in the day. When the West Bengal education department launched a portal, Banglashiksha.gov.in, it had to seek the help of two popular regional TV channels to reach out to 150 million students, studying in roughly over 70,000 government and government-aided schools. Now, post-COVID-19, when there will be a massive demand for resources from other sectors, education will fall even lower in the list of priorities,” says Shobhit Mahajan, professor in the department of physics and astrophysics, Delhi University. The government is banking hugely on the Bharat Net project, which aims to provide broadband to 250,000 gram panchayats in the country through optical fibre to improve connectivity.

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