Virtual classrooms vs. Conventional classrooms
Swami Vivekananda once said that if the purpose of a teacher is to give information only, then a library would be the best teacher. Indeed, since the inception of the educational system the pedagogical concept adhered to direct instruction, transmitted by the physical presence of the teacher who has not only imparted lessons but has also inspired and shaped the personality of the students. Hence, teaching has been aptly considered as a form of Human Resources Development. Even today Classroom Teaching holds good and is widely practised across the globe, from Kindergarten to Post-graduate level. But with the emergence of Information and Technology Enabled Services, new avenues of communication opened up and teaching methodology could not remain isolated from the impact of Information and Technology. In fact the entire world of communication is revolutionised by web-based applications.
Three cardinal principles of educational policy, namely, access, equity and quality can be more broadly attained if we embark on the voyage of education spread through the internet. Change is the only constant and the history of human civilisation testifies to the psycho-social changes through ages. William Blake, the famous English poet, has said that “Without contrary there is no progression”. The ideas about the mode of teaching are no exception to this. The “orthodoxians” opine in favour of classroom teaching, whereas on-line mode of teaching can no longer be ignored. This has become a global phenomenon. Students across the world are reaping benefits from it. A closer look into the whole process reveals that on-line education brings considerable flexibility to the learning process by extending the scope for education to those who are for some reasons bereft of the privilege of formal, institutionalised training, either in academic or in vocational course. Further, one can save time and reduce the cost of commuting from home to the campus. An insightful psychological analysis would reveal that study from home dispenses with the impending competitive environment which is more to be experienced in a classroom situation. This can be beneficial to those who have a tendency of not being able to accept failure.
We have a very old saying that “Knowledge comes but Wisdom lingers”. But in both cases learning is important. Thanks to the internet, learning is open to all. Therefore, in places where one is daunted by the process of formal learning, one can always take advantage from on-line educational system. Everyone can access education irrespective of location or situation. A relevant example in this regard may be cited in the context of the rupture of daily routine in a critical situation as that of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak. At this hour, even in India, formal teaching system has also resorted to e-learning. Schools and colleges have opted for learning through online classes. E-learning creates a virtual classroom where the students can learn and participate in the process of learning without being physically present. The result is the continuation of the reading-learning process, even in constrained situations.
The move to popularise online learning through the use of digital platform is aimed at bridging the geographical distance between the resource and the recipient of learning. Modern educational system is designed to facilitate learning, according to the learning outcome needs. Here web-based delivery of education can be very effective. The learners can easily modulate the time frame and quantum of the concerned course and can choose examination schedule that fits their convenience. There are so many learners who might have taken to jobs for their livelihood but the desire to study more has lingered within them. They cannot avail classroom education but with through e-learning they can satiate their yearning for further education, while continuing with their profession.
In countries like India where the scope for formal education is highly narrowed, particularly as we move up higher in the educational ladder, education through the digital domain is a big boon. The participation can be much bigger and broader; there would be democratisation of education and above all there would be better optimisation of resources. One unique advantage of e-learning is that a particular course can have a global certification and degree. This also applies to skill-development and vocational excellence.
Education with the help of internet has been demonstrated to be as effective as conventional didacticism. It allows students to exert more control over content and pace. The students have a far greater exposure to variegated sources of information. Conventional education system also uses the internet and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to make learning more interesting. This enables sharing of information with higher degree of expertise as students enjoy the best available analyses on respective subjects and concerned topics. Therefore, smart classrooms, equipped with the facilities of internet access are becoming popular even in developing nations.
As the popularity and extent of e-learning is amplifying, a pertinent debate crops up as to whether e-learning can replace conventional classroom system of education or not. In this regard it should be clearly understood that in many cases online educational methods are complementary to standard institutional teaching. Both the systems have merits and the development of education during the current era lies in successful amalgamation of the two. In keeping with that, in India we find courses conducted by NIOS at the school level and Distance education at the higher level of academics. Professional courses are offered through the internet to reach more people. Let us all therefore realise the value of the internet and its role in education for a new vision and mission of excellence, not only in terms of mark-sheets, but also in terms of cognizance and skill.