The current pandemic is expected to not just have enormous economic consequences but it is also having a devastating impact on global education. According to the latest figures released by UNESCO, as of 23rd March 2020, some 1.3 billion learners around the world were not able to attend school or university. World Bank has said that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing more than 1.6 billion children and youth to be out of school in 161 countries. This is close to 80 per cent of the world’s enrolled students.
In order to continue teaching-learning practices, schools have resorted to an imperfect yet quick solution to the crisis. Several schools have embarked on technological platforms to deliver online learning programs to the students and have made significant investments, in fact increasing costs, ensuring the learning continues. Teachers are doubling up as content curators and parents are stepping in as proctors, keeping up with lesson plans. The nationwide 21-day lockdown has indeed sent out a message that schools need to change tactics rapidly to stay connected with their students.
Virtual classrooms are not as simple as plug-and-play. As we all know schools thrive on structure, timetables, daily attendance, and lesson plans – a meticulous, planned operation that has been made to transform into an online mode practically overnight. Schools will now need to go multimodal, a mix of live classes, recorded lessons, physical textbooks, and online tests and questionnaires. A seamless coordination to split a lesson or concept across several modes of learning.
Learning through the digital medium is not something new for India. The government has used electronic media since the days of radio and then Doordarshan’s Gyan Darshan. Even programs like Diksha, e-Pathshala, NROER (National Repository of Open Educational Resources) etc have been existence for a while now. Diksha has more than 80,000 e-Books for classes I to XII created by CBSE, NCERT and States/UT which are available in multiple languages. e-Pathshala is a portal where NCERT has deployed 1886 audios, 2000 videos, 696 e-Books (ePubs) and 504 Flip Books for classes I to XII in different languages. Similarly, NROER is a portal has a total of 14527 files including 401 collections, 2779 documents, 1345 interactive, 1664 audios, 2586 images and 6153 videos on different languages. The current situation has, of course, put the digital medium into the centre of the equation.
Online learning is continuously complimented for its ability to mirror individual needs and reflect a conducive environment at a personal level. In the changed scenario, parents have an important role to play. Jumping into online education can be intimidating and confusing for first-time online students. Due to the increased autonomy and self-motivation required to be successful in an online program, parent involvement is generally a key indicator of the successful virtual school experience. Just like in traditional learning environments, a parent’s role and impact on student success is both critical and apparent during online learning. Parents control the environment of a child. They support setting the pace, building a physical space intended for learning, and continue to encourage in the absence of daily face-to-face interaction.
Studies have shown a direct positive correlation between parent involvement and student success. Simply put, virtual schools work better when parents take an active role in their child’s learning. As the parent of an online learner, it is imperative to be aware of the tools and services available to the student. Parents often feel isolated and are unsure of where to go if their student needs help. This uncertainty may inadvertently lead to the child’s lagging behind, losing confidence in their abilities as an online learner. During an online class, while a teacher or instructor serves as a virtual instructor of the subject matter, a parent should know when to lean in and lean out of a particular online learning environment. They are not meant to serve as the online course instructor instead, they should offer facilitative support to the learning structure, and help the child achieve his or her lesson goals.
Being acquainted with the school’s online resources and upcoming lessons can help parents to be well prepared. Many schools are running ‘Parents Orientation’ programs to forge effective communication with parents. Online tools are curated and shared with parents to help them in making informed choices for their child. They are also being engaged in interactions using technology which generate sets of data that can potentially be used to enable learners to understand & develop their aptitudes and skills. There are schools which are reaching out to parents to help teachers in curating certain teaching-learning materials for their kids. This is helping in incorporating subsequent customised lessons for respective child during the online classes.
There is no denying that even before the current outbreak had emerged children and parents have had a growing stream of new technological resources on their fingertips, offering increased opportunities for Engagement, Entertainment and Education. Parents now have to ensure that children are effectively engaged in educational activities. This is also a great opportunity to help students start working on interesting projects or independent research. Parents and students can work towards building a learning portfolio which a child is passionate about.
Time to create and utilize a family systems framework for effective online engagement. We have to look at the confluence of ‘relationships’ within the household and, thus, these relationships must ensure children learning is facilitated for a better tomorrow.