In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced majority of us to stay indoors, and we’ve had to find alternatives to get on with our daily lives. That’s where we all turned to the power of the internet and connectivity to ensure that the disruption the lockdowns caused are minimal. Whether it is work or education, everything is now online. However, before this, there were still talks of switching to digital learning, in order to help students learn better. We spoke to a couple of students, teachers, and parents to understand their views on which yields better results – digital learning or classroom learning.
It all started with installing electronic blackboards and projectors in classrooms, in a bid to make a switch to a ‘smart’ classroom, and allow students and teachers to have an immersive educational experience. Over the last couple of years, however, that has changed. It became easier to get access to information online, and to also connect with students. And with the coronavirus pandemic, this whole concept of studying solidified.
For Ankush Sharma, a student in class 8th, this has been a ‘fun’ experience. He says, “For the most part, it really has been a smooth ride for me. Not only is all the information available through my classes, I can also get extra material through the various portals that have opened up to aid students like us.” And for those who were slumped with the monotony of a classroom setup, Sharma adds, “It’s a great way to learn from the comforts of my home. And I don’t need to worry about the pace of learning as there is some leeway in case I slack somewhere.”
For Sharma’s parents, it took some time getting used to. But now, they seem to be very comfortable with the idea of learning from home. “Initially, we were worried about how effective digital learning would be, and if the students would actually follow what the teachers were teaching. But we were extremely surprised to see the teacher’s approach, and how quickly everyone adapted to this method of learning.” They further add, “It has also given us a chance to know what our child is learning, and help him out wherever required.”
Perhaps the ones who have felt the major impact of digital learning, are the teachers. A lot of them had to make the change from physical classrooms to digital ones almost overnight. And they too had to familiarise themselves with technology to ensure that effective learning was taking place. Divya Thapar, a high-school teacher at an international school in Gurgaon is of the opinion that digital learning has been a learning experience for both students and educators. She says, “There was a lot of learning involved, especially for those of us who were not well-versed with technology. However, we also had to work on our lesson plans in such a way that they keep the students engaged. This in turn led to the teachers gaining more insight about the topic, which helped in their teaching experience.” She also expounds that students also helped teachers learn about technology and connectivity, so it was a two-way process.
Like all things, there is a flip side to this. For example, there are high chances of connectivity issues, and disturbances from outside elements who are not a part of the class, or even school for that matter. Another thing to note here is that owing to the current situation, a lot of students have missed out on the experience of being in the final year of high school. Dushita Karam, a class 12th student elaborates: “We were really looking forward to our farewell, and the even taking the final exams. But with the cancellation of Boards, our classes being all online, we technically did not get to live the famed final year experience at school. Also, with limited or no social interaction, as we would in a classroom, it has been extremely stressful getting work done via video calls. I truly believe that being in a classroom helps you not only learn what’s in the textbooks, but also how to be interactive, and other important life-skills that we can use further.”
Classroom learning is the traditional method of learning, which most of us have grown up with. It not only allowed students to not be in a physical setup which was designed to keep them focused on what is being taught, but was also a space where you could have daily face-to-face interactions. Let’s see what students, teachers, and parents have to say about classroom learning.
For Rhea Wasan, who recently graduated but had to switch to virtual classes last year, nothing beats classroom learning. “I prefer classroom learning because education goes beyond just the matter that you learn. It’s about meeting people, exchanging ideas, having a social life, and other experiences which cannot be replaced by digital learning, no matter how interactive they may be,” she says.
Some parents and teachers also agree with her sentiments. “It was a sense of respite knowing that our child is in an environment which is specifically meant for them to learn. There tend to be distractions at home, and sometimes even we can’t do much about it,” shares Mr Manoj Singhani, a CEO at a tech company, whose child is a class 7th student. “While it’s true that you can approach teachers comfortably online, the personal interaction is always a better way to gauge what the student is going through (in terms of thought process), and how you can help them in the best way possible,” adds Ms Sharnamli Singh, a middle-school teacher at an international school.
The fact remains that digital learning is here to stay. One is able to get access to extra information and approach teachers and fellow students perhaps more comfortably than they would face-to-face. Whereas, classrooms provided a learning experience that also helped develop interpersonal skills. With the current situation, while there are many pros and cons, one has to take into account the adaptability factor. What eventually matters is how the information is being passed on, and what is being done thereafter to retain it.