Famed historian and author Yuval Noah Harari recently penned an article titled, The World After Coronavirus. Among many insightful observations, Harari noted that entire countries have found themselves in a large-scale social experiment. They are quite literally finding out what happens if everyone stays home and all work and education are conducted online. It is only in a time like this, when we find ourselves so far from the norm, that such experiments occur.
It is interesting to watch how this experiment is playing out in the Indian education system. While a lot of companies already offer vocational courses online, traditional education has always remained in the classroom. But the current situation has caused a radical shift in the way schools and colleges are conducting their classes. With everything going virtual, online education and video conferencing companies and network providers were quick to get on board. In a couple of short months, educational institutes were offered a variety of means to conduct online classes and supplement teaching with online educational aids. How are they doing it?
Video lecturing: Instead of getting ready for school each morning, many kids find themselves getting ready for Zoom. The video conferencing platform started trending overnight when schools decided to adopt it to conduct online classes. The platform is relatively easy to use by those with even basic knowledge of running an app. However, the transition while apparently seamless, was not without its shortcomings. Schools quickly began to stop using the platform as news of security issues surfaced.
In response, the company stepped up its security protocols and has now put measures in place to ensure that meetings are protected from hackers. This also prompted several other companies, notably, Google and Microsoft to tighten their own security measures and promote their video conferencing platforms. Educational institutions now have more choices and can shop around a little before choosing a platform that suits them.
Streaming classes: Teachers are nothing if not creative. In the time-lapse between dropping Zoom and finding a new video platform, they had to resort to other means to conduct lessons. Several schools set up their own YouTube channels and teachers were able to upload video lessons to the site. Students were then granted access to the video links and could be part of the lesson.
Streaming videos also offered the additional advantage of flexibility. Households that depended on one laptop or smart device were able to schedule a time for each family member’s use. Kids could watch the videos at a time that was convenient for both them and their parents. Having the videos on YouTube meant that students could also go back and watch them again if the need arose.
Online education solutions: While both the other methods made use of technologies that were designed for other purposes, there is one tech that is made exclusively for online education. What online education solution companies offer is a platform that serves are a virtual classroom. Here, not only can teachers deliver a lecture via video, but they also have a virtual whiteboard where they can write instructions. There are also live chat boxes where students can type their questions for the teacher without interrupting the class.
The online education model has been around for a while, but the COVID-19 crisis has now pushed it to the forefront of trending technologies. Schools can buy the software to conduct classes and the company provides any tech support that is required. Many educators are also dubbing these solutions as the classrooms of the future.
Technology has made it possible to avoid a gap in the academic year. With a variety of portals available to choose from, schools and colleges can continue classes, and kids can actually benefit from more screen time.