By Shazia Kouser
The educational institutions around the world have closed their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has kept more than 1.5 billion children at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus. While this has caused a major problem for many, it has also opened the path for online education. While many universities and colleges are conducting online learning sessions, teachers have started to conduct virtual classes at the individual level, too. Technology has made it possible for teachers to remain connected with their students. Using various modes of online teaching, the universities and colleges have been able to share study material and available resources with the students.
These days the most famous platform for online classes is the Zoom App. Founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, Zoom is an American remote conferencing services company. With the help of remote conferencing service, the app combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. Zoom is available for download on its official website and Google Play Store. The person starting a meeting on Zoom is called a Host who creates and shares a link with others to join the meeting. One of the popular features of this app is the virtual background where the users can change the backdrop of their background presence. On 29 March, nearly 600,000 people downloaded the app, its biggest day ever, according to Apptopia, which tracks mobile apps.
Another technological tool is Google Classroom which is a free web service developed by Google for schools. The web service mainly aims at simplifying creating, distributing, and grading assignments, that too in a paperless way. With the help of Google Classroom, the process of sharing files between students and the teachers has become easier. Google Classroom mainly combines Google Drive for assignment creation and distribution, Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for writing, Gmail for communication, and Google Calendar for scheduling. The students are invited to join a class through a code which is generated by the teacher.
Another technological tool which is less popular among the educators is Microsoft Teams. This app provides a platform to the teachers and the students for communicating through video conferencing and chatting. With the help of this tool, the students are able to store useful files provided by the teacher.
Though there are many other apps which have helped the teachers and the students in online education or digital education, the above mentioned apps have been widely used, attracting most students on different sides of the digital divide.
In an order issued on 10 April, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) of India has said that the educational content related to School Education which was earlier telecast only on DD-DTH, Dish TV and Jio TV App via SWAYAM Prabha will now be broadcast on Tata Sky and Airtel DTH operators as well.
In an official statement, the HRD Ministry revealed that the various e-learning platforms of the ministry have seen an unprecedented combined access of over 1.4 crore since 23 March. On 8 April, the National Digital Library was accessed about 1,60,804 times in just one day and about 14,51,886 times during the lockdown period, as against about 22000 daily strikes earlier. The official statement further revealed that nearly 59,000 people have been utilizing the SWAYAM Prabha DTH TV Channel every day, and more than 6.8 lakh people have watched these videos since the lockdown began.
India’s biggest MOOCs Platform SWAYAM has been accessed nearly 2.5 lakh times till 8 April, which is about a five times increase over the figure of 50,000 strikes in the last week of March, reveals MHRD.
On 10 April, the MHRD has asked the educationists to share their ideas on social media to improve E-learning by using the hastag #BharatPadheOnline in their Tweet, tagging the ministry the HRD minister, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, till 16 April 2020.
While technology has given a boost to our education system, there are many students who are unable to join the online classes. This is mainly because the students live in far-flung areas where the network connectivity is very low. And accessing the internet on poor network connectivity is of no use. Similarly, there are other students who face problems because of their financial condition, as purchasing a smartphone is very difficult for these students. Hence, it is an opportunity for the government to address the issues of students by providing some financial help or technological equipment through which they will be able to get in touch with their teachers. There is a dire need to start providing laptops from Class I under the Kushal Bharat which currently supports students from Class 11 to the final year of degree programs.
Shazia Kouser is a Jammu and Kashmir-based research scholar at the School of Education, Central University of Gujarat. She is exploring the area of Information and Communication Technology in Education. Her previous writings have appeared in The Diplomat, Medium, Inverse Journal, Qatar Tribune, South Asia Journal, The Rising Kashmir and Café Dissensus.
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