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Digital Education – Possibilities and Challenges

Digital Education


#Quotation Based
  • “We need to bring learning to people instead of people to learning.” Elliot Masie
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
  • “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates
  • “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”- Malcolm X
  • “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” Aristotle
#Anecdote Based

A young science teacher, Basavaraj Sungari, working in a village in Belagavi uses augmented reality and virtual reality tools to teach children online. He created videos for his students during the extended lockdown period. An avid user of new-age technological tools, he has created 3D content using mobile and desktop applications.

He has also been using some video editing tools to create videos in Kannada to explain physics, chemistry, and biology concepts. He is using Arloopa, a mobile app that helps artists embed their videos with images or videos using augmented reality and virtual reality technology. His use of online tools has provided continuity to the education of the students of the village which would have otherwise disrupted their learning.

Body Content

Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, morals, beliefs, and habits. It is a process of imparting or acquiring knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment. Education has the ability to prepare a person intellectually and give right direction to one’s life. It improves not only the personal life of the people but also their community.

Thus, one cannot neglect the significance of Education in life and society. Societies with high rates of education completion have lower crime, better overall health, larger economic development and social bonhomie. At the individual level it results in higher incomes, better livelihood opportunity, good health and productive lifecycle. It has the ability to shape one’s life in the right direction.

The present classroom model of education has been around for the past one fifty years but the advent of internet technology has completely changed the face of education. The handicaps of distance and funds pose no more challenges the way it was.

Technology based delivery of education is known as e-learning. A concept where Information and Communication technologies are used to deliver educate even to remote areas in a more inclusive, engaging and scientific way. E-learning has the potential to revolutionize education because of the flexibility, accessibility, wider choices, customization and cost.

Unlike the traditional classroom model, online education enables the teacher and the student to set their own learning pace, allowing greater flexibility in fixing schedules for classes. This results in improved balance of work and studies, which reduces compromise on other aspects. Students in higher studies can dedicate the spare time towards research, learning, and projects. This flexibility is a departure from the old mundane model where school/class was the only place considered for learning. E-Learning has changed the boundaries of education to a make it a 24*7 service.

Internet is a wide and vast cyberspace and there are infinite skills and subjects to teach and learn. A growing number of universities and higher education institutions are now offering online versions of their programs for various subjects and disciplines. From quantum physics to Indian classical music, there are plenty of options for every student. This has allowed many students to choose variety of courses which are not available in nearest school or colleges. This will boost creativity and bring fresh blood into disciplines which lacked student populations due to shortage of admissions.

One of the greatest benefits of online learning is its reach. It is not confined to concrete structures. Any curious person sitting in the remote village of Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh can have access to high technology online material and learning. Government of India has launched SWAYAM portal as an extension of its Digital India campaign.

The portal offers free printable and downloadable study materials, video lectures, discussion forums, and online tests from over 1600 courses. After successful completion of the course, students are eligible for a completion certificate. So the deprivation faced by those who did not have schools and colleges in vicinity diminished greatly. Similarly targeted programs of AICTE,IGNOU, NIOS, IIMs and UGC are revolutionizing education.

E-learning significantly reduces the cost of education and makes it affordable for students who belong to economically backward families. As e-learning does not require learners to travel to schools and colleges, it serves as a great financial relief to middle class and poor families. Also, there is no need to invest in any specific tool or learning resources apart from a computer or mobile phone.

Learners just have to log in to the application or portal at any point of time, which also removes the need to spend on textbooks or other course materials. The online data repositories act as online libraries are supplementing e-learning for learners. Schemes like National Digital Library of India and e-Shodhsindhu attest it. E-ShodhSindhu is a digital library providing access to e-resources like journals, eBooks, factual, bibliographies, citations, etc. for higher education. All academic institutions like central and state universities and colleges can avail of the services.

E-leaning not just saves financial resources of the scholars but also the Union and the State Governments. The funds require to raise brick and mortar institutions will drastically be saved and used for improvement in quality of online education. The State can work more on improving digital infrastructure, internet bandwidth, servers, manufacturing of digital learning devices etc.

E-learning will greatly benefit in bridging the educational divide between the ‘haves’ and the have ‘nots’. The vulnerable SC, ST, minority, LGBTQ and Divyangs will vastly benefit from it. It is generally seen that in these classes there is paucity of education due to various deprivations, historical and social. It will give them a chance to rise up on their feet. Schemes like Standup India and Startup India, Skill India can only succeed with a productive and learned human resource. Poor or illiterate adults in villages, single women, semi-skilled personnel, disabled can vastly improve their livelihood opportunities using the e-learning modules.

But the state with its various complexities and limitations faces tremendous challenges in making available the e-learning fully to the public. From budgetary allocation to digital infrastructures and teacher training to learning outcomes, the state faces various hurdles in making e-learning truly successful.

One of the biggest challenges with regard to online learning is the lack of strong and stable internet connections, especially in remote areas and rural interiors. For this, stronger servers, supercomputers and better fiber optic cables are needed. Improvement in  user interface  and user friendliness of software has to be improved. Another issue observed during the pandemic that the process of logging in for a class itself becomes a cumbersome process for students and teachers. Thus minute issues like these need to be ironed out.

Further concerns about data privacy and security need to be addressed. Usually, teachers conduct online classes through free platforms such as ZOOM and Google Classroom which are not the safest platforms from cyber security point of view. Institutions dealing in learning material, Intellectual property, research, thesis and related sensitive content need to be sensitized and security standards and protocols be followed in them.

In addition to above, digital illiteracy and digital divide between the urban and the rural India can pose significant hurdles in e-learning. The access of digital resources is different for various classes and social groups in India. The state, through its efforts, need to make the citizenry train in using digital platforms. Availability of infrastructure does not guarantee its usage. Therefore Panchayats, Local bodies, Self Help groups and NGOs need to be roped in to train people at large and develop learning motivation.

“The goal of education is advancement of knowledge and dissemination of truth”, said John F Kennedy. Education is a single way journey to productive and dignified life. It has the potential to turn millions of lives. It has the power to reverse thousands of years of darkness and deprivation. As our societies evolve to a more complex socio-economic scenario, our education system and methods of its delivery must reform too. Technology is merely a medium but knowledge is the ultimate goal. And in these changing technological times e-learning has the potential to revolutionize education.

Goerge Couros, a teacher in innovative learning in Canada, says that technology will never replace great teachers but technology in the hand of great teachers will be transformational. Hence, as a society, we will have to be receptive towards this digital ecosystem and hope for a stronger, digitally progressive nation.

Read more: Tackling Climate Change requires change in human attitude

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