Online is lifeline of education amid Covid-19, but challenges galore


The human generation is, presently, facing its hardest times in the form of Covid-19. There is no medicine or vaccine available for the treatment of this disease as of now, and protection is possible only by following the WHO guidelines i.e. by maintaining one-metre distance among people and avoiding human touch. But it is very difficult to control the human touch in the present day’s working environment and interpersonal interaction styles.

In such a complex situation, use of lockdown strategy for keeping people away from each other is the only appropriate way to protect them from this deadly disease. Lockdown strategy is definitely helpful in protection of people from Covid-19. But it badly affects the other useful factors of human survival and life. World is facing the lockdown for the last three/ four months and consequently all the economic, social, cultural, business, educational, religious and other human activities have been reduced to their bare minimum. The lockdown was imposed with the perception that either the impact of corona on the human beings will be over shortly or medical professionals will be able to invent the treatment/vaccine for the disease.

 More than eight months have passed but neither the impact of disease has gone down, nor the scientists could discover the medicine/vaccine. The resources necessary for the survival of people, confined at home in lockdown, have started exhausting and their life and survival have become a challenge for them. No one can predict when the humanity will get rid of this pandemic because there is no change in the pattern of spread of the disease. Involvement in the activities of day to day life for the management of necessary goods, services and resources for survival and future development has become more significant than the personal health of people. Both the government and the society have gradually started feeling that lockdown could not be continued further and in the newly emerged situation, there is immediate need to involve people in the activities of addressing the issues related to basic needs.

 India is one of the most populous countries of the world and majority of its population is poor. A huge population of India is poor and unskilled, so this population works on daily basis to earn its livelihood because the wages paid to such daily workers are not sufficient for them to afford their basic needs of a single day. So, it has become mandatory for the Indian government to allow the people to involve in the utmost important activities of livelihood earning, survival and development. Education is considered as one of the basic and most important activities of human development and keeping the future of students in mind; this activity cannot be kept suspended for a long time. All over the world, Covid-19 has badly affected the academic processes. As per WHO guidelines (i.e. by maintaining one-meter distance among people and by controlling them for human touch) the traditional academic activities which involve rigorous and closer human interactions cannot be executed. In the newly emerged situation, conduction of face-to-face classes has become a serious problem all over the world, with India being no exception to that. In India also, all the educational institutions are closed for the last four months.

The process of effective education of students is possible by ensuring the execution of continuous and uninterrupted academic processes. Any type of hindrance in the academic process may hamper the development and personal progress of students and further, it can badly harm their future. Before imposing the lockdown, the national and state governments of India had issued instructions to the educational institutions to ensure continuity of academic processes by using online/digital mode. Issuance of this type of instructions is really appreciable but their implementation is very difficult.

To test the feasibility of implementation of online/ digital education in Indian educational institutions, there is need to understand the demographical features of Indian students. According to one of the reports, India has approximately 40 crore students under the school, college, university and other educational institutions categories. Out of these 40 crore students, 65.97% belong to rural areas and 17.4% are from slums. Not only this, these 40 crore students also include a large number of disabled students. If we critically analyze student’s demographical statistics with respect to their economic conditions then it can easily be understood that only 40% population of students have affordability for access to online/ digital mode of education.

 Online education access of students is dependent not only on their economic condition but also on the affordability for electronic gadgets (like laptop or smart phones etc.), availability of communication network and supply of un-interrupted signals. It is mentioned here that not all students in the country have electronic gadgets, there is no coverage of communication network across the country and there is no supply of uninterrupted communication signals in all areas of the country. Analyses of condition of girl students reveal that the online education access for female students is much lesser than the male students. Use of smart phone and other electronic gadgets by girls’ students is not considered good by their families. Parents hesitate to give these types of devices to their daughters.

 Outcome of the above discussion reveals that majority of Indian student’s population has very poor possibility for access to the online/ digital education, then how the instructions of national and state governments for teaching of students through online mode can be justified for implementation. But the purpose of this article is not to criticize the governments but to pinpoint the challenges and problems of the online education in India and suggest the remedies.

Major challenges and remedies in the effective implementation of online/ digital education:

Challenge (1): Non-availability of proper communication network, especially in the rural areas

Remedy: State and National government should work jointly to strengthen the communication network in the areas where there is such problem.

Challenge (2): Non-availability of electronic gadgets (smart phones and laptop etc.) for students.

Remedy: State and Central governments should take help from industry for the development of cheaper electronic gadgets so that these gadgets can be provided either free of cost or on cheaper rates to the students.

Challenge (3): Non-availability of funds for data downloading.

Remedy: State and Central governments should either provide funds to students for data downloading or by framing the policy, for free data downloading facility should be provided.

Challenge (4): Non-availability of infrastructure in educational institutions for running the online/ digital classes for students.

Remedy: Central and state governments should frame the policy for providing funds for the development of infrastructure in educational institutions for running the online/ digital classes.

Challenge (5): Training of the teachers and students for using the online educational technology.

Remedy: The university, college and school teachers, who are already trained and involved in online teaching process, may be used as the master trainers for the online training of the trainers. Then the trainers trained by the master trainers can be used as trainers for the training of the teachers and students of their respective institutions. Organisations, like; UGC, AICTE, CBSE, etc. can help in the development of comprehensive programme for conduction of short duration training programme on daily basis for the training of the master trainers and trainers on regular basis.

The writer is the Dean, Humanities and Applied Sciences, Shri Vishwakarma Skill University, Palwal.