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February 03, 2021 Wednesday 10:21:22 AM IST

At Home in Asynchronous Mode

Cover Story

Elena Shklyar, a junior in School of Journalism at Michigan State University resumed her volleyball practice in July 2020 in the campus and dreams of getting into Olympic team.  "I never thought I would step on to a volleyball court wearing a mask.“  She had to do symptom tests before entering the gym and play volleyball. However, millions of students across the world were never as lucky as Elena and confined to homes unable to go to school in academic year 2020-21. Over the past several months, children everywhere have experienced how the whole world can suddenly go topsy-turvy.

“In this pandemic we realised that more than cognitive ability we need to work on the socio-emotional skills of the students so that overall the individual is nurtured,” according to Dr SujaKarthika, Founder and Chief Trainer of Exceller Training.

Teachers also went through the toughest times of their life so did the school leadership and teacher trainers. According to Krupali Sanghvi, Udgham School for Children in Ahmedabad and ICT Award winner, schools had a three -pronged strategy of Prioritize, Authorise and Act. “Parents were the centre of the education system. To technically convince the parents, to get their child on the online platform, their security, child data privacy and authorise the action was the initial challenge.”
Impact Research
The world over research has been initiated into the impact of Covid-19 on learning outcomes and the challenges facing the schools and colleges on reopening. It may be a while before we have the answers to all the anxieties and doubts.

Dr Brian Godor and Dr Ruth Van der Hallen of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) has started on a unique citizen science project that consists of a series of lessons in which children use inquiry-based learning to develop their personal resilience. "How can I handle difficult situations, and - if I don't feel comfortable with something- how can I improve it or do it differently." In this project, children will not only be performing research of their own but also helping Godor and Van der Hallen with their larger study into resilience in this age group.

However, the scope of this study actually extends beyond children’s resilience during the current Covid crisis. The researchers also seek to determine which variables can predict who is specifically resilient and able to effectively deal with setbacks in general. Such disappointments can relate to major events like the death of a loved one, but also to smaller matters like getting a poor mark for a test.

Dr Sheebamol Jacob, Certified Career Counsellor and Academician, Dubai said that extrinsic motivation of children was replaced by intrinsic motivation in online learning. “If you are intrinsically motivated, the success rate in learning is high.” Emotional quotient and adaptability quotient are of paramount importance in childhood personality development she added.

Learning Outcomes

Meanwhile, a study by University of Geneva showed that online courses deepen inequalities between gifted and less gifted students by 5%. The findings are based on an analysis of data in 2016-17. It indicated that this learning gap between different student profiles is mainly due to their behaviour and motivation.  The results of the study show that online courses improve exam results for high-potential students by 2.5%. At the same time, however, the results for students with learning difficulties decrease by 2%.

“Access to online education seems to widen the gap between gifted and less gifted students,” says Michele Pellizzari, GSEM co-director and co-author of the study. “That’s a fact that universities around the world need to take note of, as the coronavirus is accelerating the shiftto online learning.” In overall terms, if university students have the choice, they prefer to attend face-to-face classes. They only opt for the online solution when confronted with unexpected situations caused by illness or even badweather.

Professional Development

Michelle Mitchell of The Knox School in Victoria, Australia said lockdown hastened the school's re-conceptualisation of teacher's professional development. During this disruptive time, the school was committed to encouraging teacher agency and supporting teacher well-being, and this highlighted the need for a more interactive learning process, she added.

Vidya Bhosle, Biology teacher at Abhinav Vidyalay, Dombivili, Mumbai learnt the hard way that online teaching can become better if she started with simple exercises. “Istarted teaching nervous system for eg. with left hand doing clockwise and right hand going anticlockwise motions to get the attention of students. Few students were not attentive and I called and asked them what is the problem, why are they not attending lectures or answering to the calls. They were not used to technology. We trained them in Google Meets, Zoom, Whatsapp. First six months was more challenging,” she added

Prof Dr Franziska Muller, junior professor of globalisation and global climate policy said that digital teaching methods indeed brought teachers and students closer despite the remoteness. She felt that short and snappy lectures are a good way to convey information: they should be brief and bite-sized rather than long and soporific. This helps with factual as well as theoretical knowledge. "I use concise presentations of 5 to 10 minutes. Afterwards, we do a lot of group work or work on our learning portfolios. Good teaching practice, be it digital or in person, depends on the teacher to a great extent. I make an effort to connect my teaching materials to current affairs. At the moment, I ask for even more feedback. I don’t wait until the end of a course to ask my students what worked well; I want to be able to fix things sooner than that."

Global View

A UNICEF report titled Prospects for Children: a global outlook through 2025 has said that the next five years are critical for children. It said that a weakened multilateralism risks stifling progress on the world's greatest collective action problems, including many of the biggest threats to children's lives. A deepening of digital divide risks leaving children in the Global South furthest behind in terms of their ability to benefit from digital tools, and most exposed to deficiencies in digital governance.

"We urgently need to reimagine education. Modern education should build and accredit basic skills – reading, writing and math – as well as skills in problem-solving, creativity, critical thinking that young people need for work, to start a business and to engage productively in their communities.

The availability and potential of technology means that digital learning should be part of a basic basket of essential services for every child and young person, " according to UNICEF.

The World Bank estimates a loss of US$10 trillion in earnings over the lifetime of this generation of children and young people if urgent action is not taken to address the learning crisis.