By Abrahams Abana
The Coronavirus pandemic has made a global impact in the past weeks and continues to hit most of the sectors, with education being one of the most affected ones. Students/pupils across the world are losing valuable time in their education during the imposed lockdown amidst fears of pandemic. The situation has forced the schools to shut down and the students to stay at home.
No wonder, the children as well as parents feel emotionally and psychologically drained at this juncture. At such a time, the extended lockdown period is forcing the education sector in Uganda to rapidly evolve.
Most schools like *Kampala Parents’School, Kampala smart school, Viva college school etc* have come up with the idea of online classes for students to start their respective academic year, instead of wasting time due to the delay in reopening of schools.
Whereas the Ministry of education produced a framework to guide the process of continuity of learning by dispatching learning packages/materials to districts while learners are at home, there is need to supplement it with guidance from their respective teachers through E-learning.
Why online learning is important at this moment.
A major factor that frames student life is a set routine comprising school, homework, coaching or tuition classes, co-curricular activities, and more studies with a dash of entertainment thrown in. But this routine has completely been disrupted – the boundaries between study time, play time and me-time having merged these days, owing to the governmental regulations.
Establishing a routine becomes crucial for children, especially while staying indoors the entire day, to which they are not used to. A routine will keep the child engaged and the discipline to follow that routine has to come from parents. The online classes help to do just that. Not only can many of the students now attend the online classes arranged from school, they can remain in a routine, if they choose to attend a few of the online classes from leading ed-tech and e-learning platforms.
We must recognize that each school community is unique, and it may not be possible for the proposed strategies of social distancing and hygiene practices to be implemented in every setting, during the Corona pandemic scare, if the schools reopen now.
The online environment offers unprecedented opportunities for people who would otherwise have limited access to education, as well as a new paradigm for educators in which dynamic courses of the highest quality can be developed.
Why Government should embrace and support online learning
1. Easily accessible
The e- learning method requires only an internet connection with good speed and a computer or mobile phone. While taking classes online, attending is as simple as opening up your computer or tablet unlike physical classes. The sessions can be even recorded for later use.
2. Budget friendly
There are numerous classes and resources available for free access which can get rid of any financial issues for fee payment during lockdown. Also the fees can be kept low while going online, as the student will not be expected to pay his share for the cost of maintaining the whole institution.
3. Convenient to fit into the day
Students can fit online classes around their existing responsibilities and commitments and can learn at his or her own pace and time thereby planning study time accordingly. As long as a student meets the deadlines and participate appropriately online, he can be fine. This means much less pressure and intensity.
4. Available 24×7
The teachers and the students can interact with each other at any time without the limitations of day or night, for providing study materials, clearing doubts or taking tests; provided the time is convenient to all participants. The students and teachers get an opportunity to maintain a warm relationship while communicating without fear.
5. Can be personalised according to individual needs
When it comes to e-learning, the students can customize – the learning environment, the learning content itself, the interaction between facilitator, student and the learning content as per personal preferences. This aspect can generate more interest in students towards learning.
6. No commuting required
Since the students do not require to travel to a particular class for learning they can save the travelling time and use it for relaxing after the lessons. All the more, while learning, they won’t feel tired due to travelling, hence easier to concentrate. This way more time can be dedicated for studies.
Online classes give students the opportunity to plan study time around the rest of their day, instead of the other way around- anytime, anywhere. Students can study and work at their convenience. It gives learners plenty of time to digest, engage with each other, practice, or do their own research.
8. Comfortable ambience to focus
With online classes, it’s much easier to focus on what is going on. The students can put themselves in the right environment. Headphones can be used if surroundings are noisy. The interactions happen online, meaning they won’t easily wander off topic. And students can choose to study at a time when they are freshest. For those who struggle to concentrate, online classes might be the ideal solution.
9. More Individual attention
The teachers can also be at ease as they have enough options to interact with each student online, instruct and address specific issues even directly after the class. They too won’t have the usual pressures of managing school hours, checking the notes, commuting etc hence will be in a better position to take care of student needs online than in physical class rooms.
10. Social distancing can be exercised
Amidst the regulations of social distancing and self isolation, the students if allowed to attend schools may not be able to exercise the safety precautions in an effective manner. It would be very tough to control the students from playing or touching each other which might make the situation of virus spread out of control. Online classes can provide the same quality of education in the comfort of their homes thereby helping in securing their future and also in controlling the virus spread.
Therefore the point to be duly noted is that we live in an ever-changing world that is ripe with new possibilities. During this unexpected crisis of fight against the virus, there need not be a compromise on health or future of students.
The ability to learn new information or a new skill whenever and wherever you wish offers far greater opportunities for education than ever before. The scope and reach of online education broadens to far greater horizons than perhaps ever imagined. Evaluating both the pros and cons of online learning will facilitate being better prepared to face the challenge of working in this new environment as well as embrace the new opportunities that it has to offer.
The author is a digital media strategist and content developer at Daily Post Uganda. email@example.com, @AbbieAbrah