Can online education change the education paradigm?

Prof. Raj Shree Dhar
Though online teaching is difficult to completely replace in-class teaching, the proportion of online teaching in future education is bound to increase and its importance will also increase. Some old industries may decline or even disappear gradually, that may include, for example, in-class teaching, at least for a while. At the same time, some new industries may grow or even be set up. The way online teaching is quickly responding is a case in point.
Teaching Institutions should extend physical teaching and research activities to the online network, conduct teaching seminars online, jointly solve new problems that may arise in the teaching process, allow teachers to have a chance to learn effective solutions from each other. Doing that would be a tangible demonstration of the collective wisdom of the teachers’ team. Some students find it difficult to choose amongst too many resources, but teachers could screen teaching resources and recommend some to students for autonomous study. The resources should be a combination of interesting, academic material. A moderate amount of learning material is required. Providing too many materials will put too much pressure on students. If the students’ commitment to learning is not as high and the teachers do not know whether they are taking studying seriously, they could use a test to evaluate students’ learning and their online participation process could be counted as part of their final exam results in order to motivate students to participate. The final exam should be used as a way to test the effectiveness of daily online teaching. Many teachers do not have the same experience of online instruction as they have of in-class teaching. To address this requires student-centered education. A top-down approach is the worst way to teach.
Teaching should not be based on what knowledge the teachers can impart, but instead on what the students need. They should instead let students express their opinions, reflect, act and cultivate their professional skills. Setting a good example for students, addressing their common problems and promoting creative ideas and unique solutions are good strategies.
At times, the network is too busy and network quality is not good enough because the reality is that thousands, and sometimes even tens of thousands of students, will be on the same platform at the same time, which massively challenges the network. One way of dealing with this is to encourage teachers to upload their teaching resource beforehand and guide students to learn at their own pace and time.
The teachers all over the world have started working online and distance teaching practices to minimize the chances of corona virus infection and to ensure continuity of education. There will be important learning made in the process which could potentially lay the foundations of enduring frameworks and responses moving forward. This is not an easy task – it means reshaping our idea of the role that higher education should play in an ever- and fast-changing world. This is a global challenge for all of us on how we can support, train and develop teaching staff, effectively and seriously, so that, in turn, our students make a meaningful contribution to society.
A new global educational economy has been born. Right now, universities, faculty and students in countries are relying entirely on online learning to deliver core education services. Systems, experiences and expectations have been quickly forged which will almost surely yield widespread and enduring changes for global higher education. It is neither possible nor desirable to ‘go back’ from much that has been experienced. Online learning has grown beyond smart acronyms and joined the mainstream education.
This recent unique online education “shock” provides a great opportunity for every member of faculty and every student to experience online teaching and learning in their formal courses. Whether online education can reform university education, and what it may mean for education in the future, will depend on people’s experience of it and their views on it. Students’ learning experiences and learning outcomes are among the most important factors in evaluating online education quality.
The most helpful component of synchronous online learning includes reviewing video or audio tapes recorded by online learning platforms together with slides and interactions with instructors through online tools such as quizzes, or virtual interactions in video conference rooms.
Students may get a positive online experience in terms of enjoying a better view of information on their laptop rather than watching a screen in the classroom, not being disturbed by other students around them, feeling more relaxed, etc. Nevertheless, it remains too early to determine the quality of learning outcomes. Students with learning difficulties might be missed because teachers are unable to see them, but this is always a challenging issue, even in face-to-face teaching. Many faculty members find themselves very excited about participating in synchronous online teaching after becoming familiar with various online tools. Although it clearly takes a lot of work to adjust course design to suit the new context and a lot of time is spent exploring online technology, many faculty members have to update their course material to make it more accessible to both colleagues and the public. Learning analytics-based course design should help to facilitate teaching and learning, but it seems like teachers have to make full use of it for it to become effective and efficient.
Courses which rely heavily on lab experiments are also difficult to deliver online, although some courses can use simulation systems. Taking advantage of the consensus about online education, the administration system, including routine meetings and administrative procedures, can all go online and may become more efficient and easier. The university may need to provide more professional student support and continuous professional development support for teachers to help them adopt new administrative arrangements. Regarding education, there remains little quality assurance in online learning.
We should also be aware of the digital divide and education equity issues regarding disadvantaged students. More quality education resources will be easier to produce, improving higher education equity for the entire society. Lifelong education of citizens will also benefit. However, a good online learning scheme is hugely expensive when it comes to installing online systems and the faculty work involved. In summary, the crisis has given elite, traditional, campus-based universities a unique opportunity to experience a fully online education. If not for the crisis, such a trial would have been impossible. The generally positive experiences of stakeholders are very valuable if we are looking to draw up a new education paradigm, but a lot of effort is needed to address the potential concerns and issues that have emerged.
Promoting educational equity is one of the important issues that needs attention at this juncture as not all students could take help of online courses sitting at home; there are students residing in rural and remote areas who hardly have smart phones or internet connections at home. In this crisis when they cannot move out, how they take benefit of online classes, whether mathematics or social sciences or any stream, becomes an issue at hand; however the viability of online classes cannot be overlooked especially in the present scenario. After all, half a loaf is better than no bread!