The government of Odisha has announced the closure of schools and colleges until January 31 in view of the rapid increase in Covid cases. All physical classes have been stopped; scheduled exams have been postponed indefinitely and homes have been closed.
Teachers have been encouraged to take online courses during this time. Once again, the pandemic has closed educational institutions and disrupted the normal routine of students.
The online education option has helped our students save the academic years of the past; and this time too, the stakeholders can effectively use this one option to overcome the danger. The Government of India has come up with various guidelines and initiatives to help stakeholders continue their teaching and learning process. The PRAGYATA guidelines for digital education published by the government suggested eight steps for different stakeholders on the modalities of online education. They are plan, review, organize, guide, yak (talk), assign, track and appreciate.
The India Digital Education Report 2021, released last month by the Ministry of Education, highlighted innovative, outstanding and exemplary practices in online education by various states. The report demonstrated how our stakeholders overcame barriers and adapted to new ways of delivering education. Apart from this, the government has also launched a PM e-vidya program for multi-modal assistance to online education. DIKSHA, SWAYAM, SEAYAMPRABHA, AIR, etc., are some of the other government initiatives that have given much needed boost in the field of online education.
The role of the teacher is very important in online education than in offline learning. Besides teaching, they are also responsible for looking after the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of students. As the teacher is the first level counselor, his care and affection will have a great impact on the students. He must convince students to use the Internet responsibly and how its misuse can cause immense damage to his academic, social and mental well-being. Since the teacher is closer to the students, several of them may ask various questions relating to the dates of the exam, the course of the exam, the methods of evaluation, the declaration of the results, etc. A negative response will lead to increased student stress. A teacher should play the role of an adviser rather than a tutor.
It cannot be assumed that a good teacher in a traditional classroom will automatically be a good teacher in an online classroom. The National Education Policy in paragraph 24.3 notes that teachers need appropriate training and development to be effective online educators. In addition to the necessary changes in pedagogy, online assessments also require a different approach. Conducting online exams, assessments, managing network and power outages, and preventing unethical practices pose many challenges.
The teacher must prepare for his new online teaching mission. Before going to prepare his own notes and teaching materials, he must browse the digital resources available in national repositories such as DIKSHA, e-Pathsala, NROER, the contents of Open Educational Resources, etc. The materials available in these portals and prepared by experts will be of great help to the teacher as well as the students and saves a lot of time.
In addition to the materials, he must take care of the duration of the course, the calendar, the sharing of the material and the lesson plan, cybersecurity and privacy issues. All this information should be insinuated to the students well in advance to prepare them mentally for the course. He should keep in mind the simple rules of preparing slides so that they are easily readable, no more than five bullet points in a slide, the use of a 24-point font that is suitable for viewing on a television, a PC, tablet or mobile phone, 30 to 45 minutes session and use of infographics, graphs, tables, etc. Above all, he must retain the human touch that makes the course lively and interesting.
The school leader also plays an important role because he is the planner and controls the online courses of his establishment. He is responsible for the success of online courses. Good planning, coordination and timely evaluation with teachers regarding lesson progression are essential. Periodic reviews of progress and the communication of these between teachers, parents and students alert everyone to carefully discharge their responsibilities.
Covid-19 has brought new challenges to parents, which has increased their responsibility. They need to see that the child is engaged in learning, the task given to teachers earlier. In addition, the arrangement of gadgets, network, appropriate environment, physical and mental well-being of children should be taken care of by parents. Their digital behavior, anxiety, stress and anger should be carefully monitored during learning. A good balance between learning and leisure should be maintained by students and parents should ensure this through regular interaction with their children.
In addition to providing all the facilities for their children for online learning, it is also the responsibility of parents to teach responsible use of the Internet. Safe browsing and safe use of social media will help the child pay attention and interest in their career and gather the information necessary for their success. The most important thing is to ensure that the television, laptop and PC are placed in a common area of the house where the parents can keep an eye on the child. Even cell phones must also be used in the common area, which may limit usage time.
Now is not the time to get discouraged and feel sorry for the situation that changes from day to day. Pandemics come and go. They warn us about the insufficiency of our efforts and the additional security measures to be taken to deal with it. Our children must not be deprived of their education in the name of the pandemic. Let us all unite to use the immense benefits of technology to rejuvenate the education of our children.
(Dr. Biswal is Head of Department of Commerce, Nowrangpur College, Nabarangpur. Mobile: 9437125286. [email protected])