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Online Classes: Are They Really on a Par with Classroom Environment?

Sujan Koirala 28 Apr, 2020
Education System in this lock-down period, almost all over the world, has gone through a great upheaval. And perhaps, the word upheaval even minimizes the colossal damage the system has faced. The severity of the downturn, with no doubt though, in other industries like restaurants, cinema, theatres, and the like, can hardly be expressed in words. These industries are meant to bring in people to come together, and enjoy together, physically. For the education system, however, the constraint of physical presence has recently been claimed void. A virtual presence with a camera and a microphone is all that is required to run the system. I forgot to mention the Internet.

Do Online Classes Work?

No. At least not by the way “most” have been using online video conferencing tools and other education platforms to impart knowledge. If it were to video lectures that would replace classroom teachers, we would be close to shutting down formal schools because everything can be found over the Internet. And, if it were to say that an acquainted teacher from a remote computer could help his student on the other side in person, we would undoubtedly be overrating these bandwidths and power limited instruments. At odds with the norms of conventional classrooms, these online tools can only be decoys.
As a Computer Science teacher, I have had some experiences of online teachings recently. The classes were scheduled, and students were asked to attend the classes on time. They did. My first class, however, had a rough ride. I had to make sure that the microphone was working correctly, video transmission was clear enough, the shared screen was on their screens as well, and had to make sure that I admitted everyone inside during the lecture. It did not end there as I would make confirmatory “acknowledgement” calls at random times to everyone to verify their presence, and I would not be the only one in the virtual session. The following class, a week later, did not face most of the similar challenges since I had all of the things fixed before the course. I even delegated classroom regulatory powers to one of the students and dived right into the subject matter from the minute I started the session. The virtual course, albeit seemed good, comprised issues regarding the doubt on the presence of attendant students throughout. I, therefore, had to check in from time to time the way I did on my debut.

Online Vs Real Classes

In real classrooms, things worked differently. The interactive environment felt livelier. The energy that I put on in the actual classroom, to my surprise, compared next to nothing to the strength I exerted on a virtual session. Online classes drain energy very quickly. This is because of the one-sided speaking on the microphone just to make sure the connection still exists; to make sure the class is still going on. You cannot let students speak at the same time, and the limitation is one at a time in online courses. The flaw is beyond comparison to real classes. In actual classes, we can also listen to two pupils at a time, sometimes very clearly. Virtual classrooms are perhaps, dull for the tutor.
A prolonged session can leave the tutor and students fatigued. And, if a teacher is naive to computers, then the kernel of the topic that is to be taught gets lost in transition. Even the cornucopia of digital gadgets --- smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, or tablets ---, even when online platforms conform to the end-user (students’) devices, fail to deliver what a typical classroom environment demands. A classroom environment does not rely on small screen delivery of tuition and requires a board --- broad enough to see things comfortably, possibly not available for every student. This list of problems is not exhaustive.
The main idea of education is to inculcate knowledge in students. The proponents of online education could say that virtual platforms create a new environment, and getting used to it could take some time and patience. Their statements may flaunt requirements adjusted for the digital age and may try to convince parents of appropriate exploitation of technology in order to exchange knowledge. The gist of face-to-face in-classroom education, however, can never be justified with the current technological capacity. One such instance can be the view window of the teacher. While online, the eyes of the teacher get fixed to a portion of the screen only. The rest gets blurred if not completely out of sight. In contrast to this, in a classroom, a teacher has a perfect view of many students and can answer the inquisitions of many students all at once.

Final Thought 

For all the drawbacks, any online classes bear, and for all the hardships that an online tutor and students face, no proper compensation with justified notion get rewarded. It would be best if the parents are made home tutors for small children, and for the students of higher level, providing self-study guides and assignments would be better. To relish the emergence of makeshift classrooms, we need to raise its capacity. Perhaps holographic image technology could stand a better chance and rectify the imperfections of virtual classes we have today. As for the students, during these weird times, they need to study on their own too and rely less on online education platforms.
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