The global pandemic of covid-19 has brought an entirely new way of learning and teaching – both for the teachers and students. Yes, we are talking about online learning, also referred to as “e-learning”. This means attending lectures from your university tutors through online tools and hence, you are not required to attend the university campus in-person. The concept of e-learning was probably the only solution for governmental authorities and parents for ensuring attainment of educational goals through electronic means. Now we see an expansion of e-learning owing to the abrupt shutdown of all kinds of academic institutes. For many, this has turned into a nuisance instead of a blessing. Now we are confronted with a strange dilemma and e-learning is the only essential pedagogical tool for teachers to provide quality education through electronic methods. Take it or leave it – but that is the deal that we will have to accept now.
If the numerous warnings and reports issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) are taken into account, the coronavirus isn’t going to be eradicated because it is here to stay with us, until we get an appropriate vaccination to protect ourselves. On the other hand, the research literature also suggests that development of an effective vaccine against coronavirus may take years before we can buy a standardized protection from the coronavirus. While there could be substantial differences with regard to the number of active coronavirus cases across the globe, an estimated figure (according to UNESCO data June 2020) suggests that there are as many as 1.6 children from 190 countries have been affected by the pandemic and thus, are unable to go to school. The same applies to students studying at higher educational institutes such as degree awarding colleges and universities.
Needless to say, educators in every country are making diligent efforts to ensure provision of quality education for the students. The role of such educators are indeed commendable as they are always in a quest to find new avenues for ensuring that learning continues for students through development of online learning materials; learning about new methods face-to-face working methods of video conferencing tools so as to ensure regular interaction with the students and to conduct psychological training sessions for the well-being of students.
Online education opening doors for enhanced quality in education:
E-learning could possibly be a new concept, especially in the developing countries with resource constraint settings for provision of education through online tools. But we also find an evidence that students have started to experience a new taste of blended learning through virtual education. With the rapid growth of online education, we have come to learn that attending virtual classes is not merely taking an online course through some kind of video conferencing tool; it goes even beyond this. This implies that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in pedagogical approaches in provision of online education. The teachers, having no prior experience of delivering online education, are in a constant pursuit of discovering new innovative and advanced approaches for effective teaching and learning. It has become crucially important for the academic institutes of higher education to bring a balance between online and offline assignments for students; while at the same time, they have to ensure that they become successful in developing timetables and lesson plans in accordance with the convenience of the students and their parents. This innovative model of online learning and teaching goes beyond the walls of physical classrooms. It allows choices of students and flexibility to help them learn at their own pace, and helps them to get engaged in more collective and collaborative tasks with peers along with the provision of an opportunity to reconsider the mode of conducting online or offline assessment and the subsequent feedback. E-learning has paved the way to help us reconsider the possibilities of how we are teaching the learning materials to students and how successful we have been thus far.
Six key factors that have contributed in developing the new pedagogy of online education:
As the instructors and faculty members of educational institutes are getting more acquainted with the digital tools for effective teaching and improved learning outcomes, different pedagogical plans and strategies are evolving. There are six key factors that have made a profound impact on the way the teaching is now being structured and delivered to students through online learning systems:
1: Blending Learning
With the advent of online teaching and learning tools, nowadays the classroom teaching is very much integrated with digital resources which has led to blended learning or hybrid learning. This was all happening in the pre covid-19 era where the classroom teaching was significantly reduced; however, not fully eliminated. Hence, e-learning is not a newly developed concept. It has been in practice and being used successfully since the early 2000s.
2: Efficient Teaching and Learning
The e-learning concept entails a method to deliver lessons in a most efficient manner. For example, use of video lessons, online sharing of resource materials, completing formative and summative assessments – all of which can be completed with the help of clicking a single button. Moreover, tutors may record their video lectures and then share it with a broad range of students for reference. This can help academia to enroll more students in a virtual classroom and thus, chances of students’ admissions are substantially increased.
3: Affordable Learning
Completing your degree through an online portal is way too economical instead of physical classroom based physical learning. Completing your study program through online systems primarily removes two major cost items for students. This includes transportation and hostel fee. The course material is usually available online which can be accessed by the students as many times as they want. This removes the tangible resource materials for students and makes learning easier for them.
4: Low Absenteeism
There is very low likelihood of absenteeism if the students are enrolled in online study programs because e-learning allows them to attend the virtual class from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, live video sessions are uploaded on the websites of educational institutes for the students, which allow them to download and watch the missed lessons at their preferred time and from their preferred location. One of the many reasons being cited in the literature about low absenteeism is shy and nervous students. Completing your degree program completely online removes this barrier for such students who are seen frequently withdrawn in an environment of a physical classroom and they tend to open up their thoughts and provide inputs in online course forums. Their passive participation turns into active and they do not hesitate to ask questions anymore once they start studying completely in a virtual environment. This is probably associated due to the fact that their nervousness and shyness are completely eradicated and they feel awesome attending the online classes from a comfy sofa of their homes.
5: Increased Control and Choices for Students
Through e-learning programs, students have the option to access a great deal of content, absolutely free from various academic web sources through internet. This enables them to choose any alternative interpretations varying from the ones they study in text books, explore a variety of content on the area of their study interest and allows them to choose their preferred academic databases. In this day and age, students possess digital tools such as smart mobile phones and video cameras, with the help of which they gather digital data and examples and use them in their course work. This allows more flexibility for the students as they are not the duty bound to accept the pre-decided curriculum and study content. Research shows that students enrolled in a course are likely to have numerous kinds of needs. It is for this reason that within the context of the learning framework, plenty of flexible methods towards exploring the content of choice, mode of delivery, assessment methods and associated factors are increasingly sprouting.
6: Learning Anytime, Learning Anywhere
There is a burgeoning evidence that students nowadays are more inclined towards short (just-in-time) learning modules that could instill in them immediately a specific knowledge area. Students are more geared towards attaining education that could help them gain an employment soon after the completion of the study program. This has led towards a demand of short course – with the help of which they can earn micro-credentials and thus, can end up a degree program at a university with few more credits to complete. For instance, any micro credits of a continuing education course can be transferred into an elective course of a formal degree program of a university.
The purpose of anytime and anywhere learning can be achieved through mobile learning such as smartphones, tablet PCs and other smart devices. Students can participate in the online learning programs through such smart devices. Since the completion of attending the course content, multimedia resource, completing online quizzes and interactions with other students on class forums have become so prevalent that the world of academia has already started to rebrand online learning as “learning of future”. Many degree awarding colleges and universities are fully engrossed in giving a captivating look for their online course designs, content packages and video lectures. Now the time has arrived for the academia to ponder as how to best integrate mobile phone devices into delivery of course content and assessment as this field now demands continuous exploration and research.