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Digital Classroom During the Pandemic

Tek Nath Poudel

May 11, 2020
Last updated July 15, 2021
KMC Lalitpur

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic all around the globe has prompted countries to close their borders and enforce lockdown. The spread of the deadly virus has adversely affected almost every area of life with the education sector not being an exception.

While the schools, colleges, and universities are closed due to the pandemic, millions of students are forced to stay home paving the way for a new type of education system. As per the UNESCO report, the COVID-19 has affected 1,576,021,818 young learners constituting 91.3% of the total enrolled learners (pre-primary to tertiary education levels). In Nepal alone, 8,796,624 students have been affected. Against such a backdrop of months of stay home order and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, many governments and educational institutes have started a distance learning (online learning) system enabling students to take classes and sit for the exams online from home.

To keep students engaged and to continue their learning, the Hong Kong administration had introduced interactive apps for students to learn from home in February. The Geneva-based World Economic Forum believes that some 120 million Chinese students are currently having access to learning material through live television broadcasts. Turkey is launching digital education for children beginning May.

Digital Classroom

While the education innovators had been experimenting with the digital classroom worldwide over the past many years, its slow progress was frustrating. Most of the teachers and students across the world were reluctant to digitize teaching and learning activity. Experts in the field of education believe that the COVID-19 outbreak has accelerated and made digital classroom indispensable.

In the corona-hit countries, many schools and school leaders are finding stop-gap solutions to continue teaching their students through the quality of learning is heavily dependent on the level and quality of digital access to learners.

Some schools, especially private colleges, and educational institutes have started delivering online classes as well.

Digital Divide

Handful of colleges and academic institutions can run online classes smoothly since most of the students from public schools, community colleges may not have access to the uninterrupted internet facility. While affluent students from private institutes can continue with their education while low income students will be deprived of their right to education for lack of internet facility. Scheduled exams and tests had to be put off due to outbreak of the pandemic. Only a few educational institutes have been able to deliver online teaching while majority of the low income and community college students are outside the domain of the e-learning in Nepal.

What Can be Done?

Needless to say, the pandemic has forced policymakers, education leaders, and education providers to change centuries-old, and lecture-based approach of teaching to the one driven by technology. This disruption in the delivery of education is pushing policymakers and other stakeholders of the education to figure out a way out to educate students while ensuring inclusive e-learning solutions and tackling the digital divide. Immediate measures have to be put in place to ensure continuity of learning in low-income private, government schools, and universities. Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Softwares should be adopted so teachers can conduct teaching online.

Inclusive learning solutions, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized need to be developed. With a rapid increase of mobile internet users in Nepal, technology is enabling ubiquitous access and personalization of education even in the remotest parts of the country. This can change the schooling system and increase the effectiveness of learning and teaching, giving students and teachers multiple options to choose from.

It is also important to reconsider the current delivery and pedagogical methods in school and higher education by seamlessly integrating classroom learning with e-learning modes to build a unified learning system. It is also important to establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmarks for online learning. During such a long crisis and the possibility of its recurrence, according to top priority to online learning is indispensable. Today’s students are our future and we cannot afford to allow them to stay idle. With certain guidelines and accessibility of the internet, regular classes can be run and testes conducted online.

Engaging students with their studies through the digital medium will help them boost and sharpen their minds. More importantly, digitizing education we will be laying the foundation for the progress of Nepal in the long run.

Tek Nath Poudel is the Head of Academics at Malpi International College. He can be reached at teknathp@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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