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ONLINE EDUCATION : BOON OR BANE ?

The pandemic triggered a shift from offline in-person education to online education across the world since March 2020. Now that, almost 20 months have transpired, it is worth analysing the impact of online education on the students community. After collating data from various stakeholders like teachers, students, parents, academic staff etc working across the cross-sections of the education industry, the following key observations have been crystallised :

  • There is near unanimity on the view that Teaching is more effective in offline mode as compared to online mode. Though live interactive online lectures plus recordings offsets to a large extent the relative advantage of offline lectures over online lectures, the online teaching has proved quite ineffective for students who lack sincerity. The eye-to-eye interaction between the teacher and student in offline in-person mode ensures that all students (sincere and insincere) are in the loop which often does not happen in online mode where dodgy students can game the system.
  • There is also near unanimity on the view that Assessment is more effective in online mode as compared to offline mode. So, for Test assessments or Assignments assessments, online systems give far more detailed analytics and at a faster rate than in offline paper-pen mode.  
  • It has also been observed that Online education fosters sound intellectual connect between the teacher and the student but it lacks emotional connect to a significant extent. Offline education, on the other hand, establishes sound intellectual as well as emotional connect between student and teacher and hence is more effective than Online mode. 
  • The attention span of students in online education is a nuanced phenomenon wherein students of lower age-groups (say under 12) have struggled whereas students of more matured age groups (say above 18) have benefitted. Teachers have struggled to engage students online of lower age groups in general. The intermediate age-group of 12-18 has a complex and diverse set of observations in terms of attention span of students. Thus, attention span of students in online education is a function of individual maturity and age.  
  • Online education however gives more access to study resources to students than offline education as online mode liberates one from the constraints of space and time to a great extent. Features like 24X7 Doubts Forum, portability of on-demand study material, on-demand quizzes etc are available in online education and not in offline education.
  • Online education has also caused a digital divide in society as those students residing in regions with weak or no internet connectivity or those who cannot afford electronic devices to access online education have suffered. There is also another divide within this divide between synchronous (live interactive lectures) and asynchronous (recorded lectures) online education. 
  • Online education also has resulted in excessive screen time for students which can be detrimental for their eye-health or has been found to cause certain mental issues like OCDs , cognitive dissonance etc. 
  • The other fallout of online education is that students tend to access other Apps and websites which are for entertainment / gaming and not for studies. So, online education has a potential threat of distractive resources which can wean the student away from educational content. Many students were reported to spend long hours on gaming and entertainment sites but pretending to study. Monitoring and supervision tools are available online but they too can be gamed by smart students. So, online education can often be less engaging and more distractive unless the online platform and device blocks the student from accessing any other App / website.  
  • Online education has cut down the travelling time of students drastically however and in this matter has an edge over offline education. This point often is critical in metros where students commute for long periods. 
  • Online education is relatively less expensive as compared to offline education which makes it more affordable for price-sensitive parents.
  • Offline education creates an ideal atmosphere for peer-to-peer learning which is a major downside of online education where students tend to become loners and group dynamics is not pronounced. 
  • Statistics of the recently held 2021 National Entrance Exams like JEE, NEET etc reveal that Top 2-5% of the aspirants have performed better in absolute terms than aspirants in the past 10 years or so who underwent offline education. The next 10-15% performing aspirants have performed equivalently as the aspirants in the past 10 years. However, the bottom 80% of the aspirants in 2021 have performed poorly as compared to their counterparts in the past 10 years. These statistics prove that online education has polarised the students community. The Top 2-5% students have utilised online education extremely efficiently and have outperformed students of previous years. The next 10-15% students have gained similar learning outcomes like the offline students. The bottom 80% students could not adjust to online education so well or did not achieve good enough learning outcomes like their predecessors.

So, the debate of online v/s offline education has to be perceived from the reference frame of the profile of the student's sincerity, maturity, intellectual level and age-group. Both have their pros and cons - it depends on the student how he or she takes it. 

Online education is a great leveller / equaliser in terms of access to education !
But, Online education is a great polariser in terms of learning outcomes in education !

The future of education is however in blended / hybrid / phygital mode where the best features of offline and online modes shall be combined intelligently to yield optimal learning outcomes. Hi-Tech classrooms equipped with digital Boards which allows students to optionally attend in offline or online modes and avail the same live lecture in real time is an interesting proposition. Use of immersive learning tools like VFX, VR coupled with AI for personalised learning along with blockchain tech for data security and leveraging the crypto network, Web 3.0 metaverse (or omniverse) can further augment the Blended mode offering in the coming decade.

Time will tell where we finally land up in the modalities of delivering Education to the billions of students across the globe !  



 

Comments

  1. The online-offline confusion finally made sense after reading your article. The benefits of both are highlighted concisely and well. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and the data.
    Side note: "gaming the system" had me in splits :). Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes agreed. Hybrid is a solution. But offline is a need. This help student to be social which is missing in online. We need student to be complete human being and not machines with no emotions.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Res.Sir, really your article is appreciable. Hats of you.!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent analytical article .. covers all aspect with unbiased outlook !!
    I believe the strengths of online and offline education ..if clearly underlined we will do much better in future

    ReplyDelete

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