In my last article, I have advocated use of colossal places like stadium, play ground or any open space available to conduct on-site examination while maintaining social distance which is one of the key preventives for Covid- 19 infection. This method will obey all the best practices of taking physical examination, safe, and centralized. In parallel, individualized on-line examination taking process using modern technology is under development, it’s scrutinization and acceptability yet to be tested. Development of a full-proof on-line individualized examination system will help ease the huge logistic and physical infrastructure required to conduct off-line examination system. I also advocated to pursue a blended approach of on-line and face-to-face teaching-learning method to be pursued at post Covid- 19, where positive aspects of each side can be assimilated in developing a more robust and beneficial platform of delivery of learning contents.
It is all known that face-to-face teaching where dexterity and human affection of good teachers has no substitute. At the same time, on-line method offers quite a few positive aspects which can no longer be ignored. So let us examine what are the potential positive derivatives of digitization as well as on-line method of delivery if it is implemented in symbiosis with face-to-face teaching method.
Shortage of teacher in educational Institutions: Very often the issue of shortage of teachers across all institutions from primary level to university cropped up, and this is a primary step to look into for any education system to be effectively functional. This problem, say, from Std. VII to University can be solved by developing a centralized teaching pedagogy using technology enabled platforms, where limited number of teachers can address a large section of students. This may not be the best one, but can emerge as an optimum one. And to solve the digital divide between have and have-not students, organization can buy like mobile phones or tablets and rent to the students. It is also indicating the future direction in the evolution of library operation. Libraries needs to lessen expenditure in physical book purchase, instead of, it should change its budget plan to purchase/subscribe soft version of the book and digital device like mobile phone and/or tablets to loan/rent in order to get accessibility to on-line mode of teaching.
Improvement in Work-Life balance: This is a very much talked about parameter about how to maintain a good work-life balance? And in terms of teaching and especially in school teaching profession, majority of the teachers are women. In major parts of the world, as society is still patriarchal, additionally if the women hail from low income group, most of the house chores including cooking are burdened with the women. My Indian experience has also observed that most of the educational institutions are working on Saturday and hence the woes are compounded. In this circumstances, out of six working days, teaching of four days from work place and two days from home by adopting on-line method will bring a huge relief to the working women who are serving as teachers.
Economical operation of the organizations: Lot of companies globally has changed the operation from six days to five days/week, and one of the consideration is to reduce the operational and overhead cost. Therefore, for educational institution too, reducing the number of working days at site and partially converting to on-line might help more saving in the revenue. I personally know lot of educational institutions runs in shift because of huge no of student enrolled vis-à-vis paucity of available physical infrastructure. Therefore, partial conversion to on-line mode will reduce the strain in the availability of physical infrastructure.
Reduction in the carbon footprint: According to my Indian experience, most of the educational Institutions opens in between (8-9) AM and closes in between (3-4) PM. This arrangement is adopted in order to beat huge congestions developed afterwards due to office goers. Though this staggered arrangement is better than starting every activities together, even then no respite. Huge congestion is built up in the school communication hours due to the plying of school buses and many schools are located within city limits. Therefore, reduction of no of on-site working days will definitely reduce the level of air-pollution in the area.
Adoption of virtual meeting: Meetings/interactions through virtual mode has become the new norms in Covid times, and there is no hue and cry against this practice. Therefore, all the business meetings, interviews now onward should be adopted preferably in virtual mode, and this practice will help reduce the unnecessary travelling and, in turn, the level of air pollution.
Exposure to technology and induction of self-learning: Digital divide between kids of “haves” and “have-nots” to access to electronic gadgets and internet is a growing concern; students without tech access could fall further behind. Even in the developed world, a gap of approx. 20% and in the developing world approx. a gap of 50%, exists (1) (Figure 1). So, a gradual arrangement of digital infrastructure in delivering the educational content will automatically close the gap of digital divide. Additionally, digital delivery of content where the direct involvement of the teacher is absent, might induce the spirit of self-learning and digital literacy among youths; and this is no longer a concept. The Hole-in-the-Wall Education Project (HiWEP) conceived and implemented by Dr. Sugata Mitra, Chief Scientist at National Institute of Information Technology, India, has already proved that how mere availability of educational content in a digital format can inspire young mind’s self-learning and cognitive skills (2, 3). The Hole in the Wall experiment had inspired Indian diplomat Mr. Vikas Swarup to write his debut novel Q & A, which later became the Academy award winning movie Slumdog Millionaire (3).
At the end, impetus for gradual digitization of education will assist in the preparedness of uninterrupted delivery in the next crisis time like epidemic/pandemic or any other natural disasters. Today’s new generation not only requires basic education, but also the skill through self-learning to deal with an increasingly complex and connected world. We need to create inclusive educational solutions that address all sections of society and digitization will be an effective catalyst to help transform the process.
- Jeff Ogden (W163) and Jim Scarborough (Ke4roh) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18972898.