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What is the future of virtual learning in India? Here’s what experts say

By Saswati Sarkar,

Educationists share their insights on the viability and effectiveness of digital education in the country.

In order to make virtual learning a success, students need to have access to devices and strong internet connectivity.

Remote learning has become an indispensable part of the education system now, thanks to the social distancing norms mandated by COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, there is a big push from the government for the digitisation of education. Recently, in its it 2021-2022 budget the Delhi government proposed to set up virtual schools. But there are there are quite a few concerns about the viability of effectiveness on digital learning in India. Here, educationists share their insights about making online learning a success.  

Sharad Bhatia, Co-Founder and CEO, K8 School 

The necessity of a digitally enabled education system cannot be undermined and the COVID-19 pandemic has made it all the more prominent. A virtually efficient education system will keep us prepared for any such emergency in the future. Also, it will have a much more profound impact on students than traditional learning systems if schools can provide engaging content through an efficient learning management system.  

As a country, India is very adaptive. We accept the ‘new’ quite easily. That is why, we have warmed up to the idea of e-commerce so well and our transition to online education has also been quite smooth during the pandemic. Moreover, internet connectivity in our country is cheap and smartphone density is also much higher than other countries. Also, the government is taking a lot of initiatives to make the education system technology-driven. All these factors, combined together, will go a long way in making digital education a success in India. However, the government has to take major policy initiatives to ensure mass access to the infrastructure necessary for online learning. Poor quality of internet connectivity can also come in the way of successful implementation of digital education. The government needs to tackle this challenge by setting some benchmarks for internet providers.

Dr. Ameeta Mulla Wattal, Principal, Springdales School 

We need to be prepared for an emergency like pandemic to prevent learning loss in children. In an academic year, even six months with no access to education mean a long gap and it may affect students at a later stage. Technology-enabled remote learning methods will ensure that students don’t have to experience this gap in case of an emergency. The ideal option would be to provide them a combination of face-to-face and technology-assisted learning. However, the relevance of physical schools will never go away because kids need in-person human interaction to build their character, develop value systems and leadership skills.  

In order to make virtual learning a success, students need to have access to devices and strong internet connectivity. The government needs to ensure that children from the economically weaker section are provided with all these infrastructural facilities. Additionally, teachers need to be sufficiently trained in terms of technology to be able to ensure the best learning outcomes for students in a digitised set-up.   

Nevertheless, technology can never take over learning. It can only be a tool for learning. The components of 21st century is not only technology, it’s collaboration, cooperation and real-life learning.  

Amrish Rai, National Convenor, RTE Forum 

Online education cannot be a substitute to traditional classroom-based learning. It can be an addition to the existing system, especially during an emergency situation like the pandemic. There is no denying that digitisation of education is necessary if we want to equip children for competition at the global level. However, the success of this mode of learning in India will depend on the government’s ability to implement the right policies in terms of access to infrastructure and ensuring quality. Currently, in our country, digital divide between the rich and poor, men and women is huge while it comes to availability of technology. For the success of online education in India, this gap has to be bridged by making sure that students from all socio-economic strata have equal access to electricity, digital tools and internet connectivity. Otherwise, virtual learning or digital literacy for that matter, will be confined to a very small cross section of the society. Also, teachers need to be sufficiently trained with the new skills required for imparting knowledge through digital mode. Two big challenges that online education poses are limited scope for peer learning and increased screen time for children. These are the areas that need to be worked on while trying to integrate virtual learning methods in the education system. 

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