E-learning is no more an option, it’s a necessity

Taking the present situation into account, I am almost certain that the “New Normal” as we call it, is not normal. The rise in COVID-19 cases has oppressed everyone under house arrest and has made people resort to digital platforms to continue their daily work. It has forced everyone involved in the educational sector to adopt the method of e-learning as it provides the opportunity to study from anywhere across the globe and at any time. This digital move has been enabled through use of various online platforms such as Google Classroom, Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, etc., along with making e-learning books and e-learning notes more accessible, engaging, and contextualized. Educational institutions and students across the world have accepted and appreciated the online platform of learning due to ease of use, learning flexibility, and a controllable environment. As this e-learning wave is a recent development, both teachers and students are in the process of adapting to this new teaching and learning methodology. At this point of the virtual teaching-learning process, it becomes all the more important to get to know the opinion of the learners and to explore learners’ inclination towards this methodology.

The concept of e-learning allows for learning beyond the traditional norms. In earlier times, our teachings in Gurukuls were renowned for imparting learning to the students in a natural surrounding where the Shishyas lived together with brotherhood, humanity, love, and discipline. This helped in personality development of learners and increased their confidence, sense of discipline, intellect, and mindfulness which is necessary even today to face the world that lay ahead. As the name suggests, classroom learning involves both the teacher and the student being physically present inside a classroom where interaction between learners and teacher is more direct and real-time. At a higher level, classroom teaching promotes networking among the learners and fosters relationship between the teacher and the student. This is especially useful for developing it further into a more fulfilling mentor-mentee relationship. However, the scenario of education now is different due to the current pandemic situation. Overcoming the adversities associated with primitive methods, modern education is imparting knowledge more effectively and impeccably. Delivering knowledge through online platforms or websites has not only attracted a variety of students but has also motivated teachers to participate in technology-driven learning.  Not constraining the deliverance to any kind of time limits or the number of students, the popularity and preferences of online teaching are increasing day by day.

With such a massive disruption on the horizon, e-learning is emerging as the panacea for the crisis. It is student-centered and offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of time and location. The e-learning methods enable us to customize our procedures and processes based on the needs of the learners. Educators can use a combination of audio, videos, and text to reach out to their students to maintain a human touch to their lectures. The anywhere-anytime feature of e-learning is beneficial in times of crises like natural disasters, man-made disasters, or pandemics such as COVID-19. Coming to cost benefits, e-learning is found to be more cost-effective than classroom learning. For instance, if one wants to earn a degree from a traditional institute, he/she has to attend the regular classes, bear extra boarding costs, transportation costs, and tuition fees. On the other hand, if one is enrolled in an online learning program, he/she can save these extra expenditures. Not only this, as online learning erases geographical boundaries, learners can gain access to top-quality courses from world-renowned institutions without moving from their homes. This bridges the gap in quality of education and levels the playing fields in many ways. Learners also benefit from signing up for courses, specialization and degrees that are out of their curriculum, through platforms like Coursera, Udemy, etc.

While the advantages and opportunities of e-learning are immense, there are some shortcomings too that educational institutions and business organizations must take into account. E-learning hampers the communication between the learner and the educator, that is, direct communication and human touch are lost. Users may also face many technical difficulties that hinder and slow down the teaching-learning process. Learners should know how to balance both advantages and shortcomings of e-learning because it requires more dedication and patience than classroom learning.

In my opinion, I can say that e-learning has been a positive and fruitful experience during this pandemic. I took online lectures seriously from day one and made notes for my reference, just the way I used to do in physical classrooms. Thanks to the university, we were also given a break from daily lectures and given the opportunity to be a part of some extra-curricular activities like virtual seminars, debates, quizzes, etc. The e-notes and PowerPoint presentations shared by the professors were too of great help to me apart from my hand-written notes. The good thing about e-learning is one can pause the audio/video at their convenience to understand the lecture for more clarity. Various online Zoom and Google Meet links of educational and non-educational seminars and webinars were again a very important part of my e-learning during this abnormal situation. These methods were a major step to engage students, and also keep their minds refreshed. The examinations were also held online; however, a couple of times I faced some issues because of poor internet quality. But then, it was well supported by the professors who made sure to try all possible ways to make the examinations feasible for the students.

Naturally, these new experiences bring with them new challenges and adjustments. The main challenge for me was maintaining the same level of sincerity and discipline while studying. It was fairly easy to get distracted being at home and that too with the entire family. Not only this, there have been times when my self-confidence and morale have been very low and times when I got distracted from my schedule. But amongst all this, I was fortunate enough to complete an internship in an IT company for a month.

This terrible time of fate has taught us that everything is unpredictable and that we need to be ready to face challenges. My experience has taught me some valuable lessons and most importantly, I have a better understanding of the role of an individual amid the pandemic.  The advantages of technology are undeniable, and hopefully, these experiences will prepare me for some challenges in the future that come with the next pandemic, epidemic, or disaster.

Till then: Wear a mask, maintain social distancing and keep learning, keep growing, no matter what!!!