Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, distance education, commonly known as online learning/digital learning, has become the dominant mode of education. In this form of learning, students learn via the use of technology, which does not require the physical presence of the student in schools.
After schools, colleges and other educational institutions were shut down because of the pandemic, for many days, students were deprived of the gift of education. So after a few weeks into the pandemic, many institutions, especially the privately managed ones, began offering online education, allowing students to get a degree from the comfort of their own homes.
The public universities were late to join the party, because of concerns over the network connection and access to the internet for students living in the marginalised communities. Eventually, they also adopted the online mode of education.
In online classes, students could continue their education at ease. Teachers usually shared live recordings of their lectures to assist students. Students could download the lecture materials for free (except for mobile data) and watch them later.
Renowned universities also enabled students to learn from online education platforms like Coursera, Udemy, EdX etc. to hone their skill sets. For example, the University of Dhaka allowed its students to enroll in Coursera courses for free.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic, for the time being, seems to be under control, especially given the massive vaccination efforts worldwide. And things are beginning to look normal again.
With schools already reopened and universities scheduled to reopen from October, it is time to look back at the efficacy of digital learning and its drawbacks.
When it comes to in-person classes, the teachers can impart knowledge and clarify concepts in person. Traditional education enables pupils to interact with one another. Students can also check their doubts in person during conventional education. While conventional education has faults, it is nevertheless an effective method of learning.
That is not to say that online education did not have its perks.
Firstly, online education saves time. Unlike traditional education, which requires commuting, you can acquire knowledge through an online platform with no commute. Moreover, one of the primary benefits of digital learning is that it is far less expensive than traditional education. The money spent on travel, uniforms, and dorms in conventional education is not required in digital classes. This enables kids from financially disadvantaged backgrounds to follow their dreams. With online education, you just pay for university credits, which saves you a lot of money.
On top of that, digital learning also compels you to improve your technological literacy. This is because you will be required to utilise technology to study. This is a positive change, given the bulk of professions in today's world require tech-savvy people.
Online learning can also improve your time management. Students must have the ability to manage their time effectively. This is feasible with digital classrooms since there are no professors physically guiding students as they complete their assignments. This autonomy enables students to develop and enhance their time management skills.
Unlike conventional education, digital education enables students to submit their attendance from the comfort of their own homes. Students may report to class without being absent.
Also, digital education is far more accessible since there are no geographical barriers to entry. Without facing the typical financial limitations or other barriers, a student can get a degree from a university in another country by studying online. However, questions remain whether such degrees would be valued similarly in the job market.
Finally, in comparison to conventional learning, digital learning feels far less competitive and is less intensive. Students are less anxious and calmer as a result of the low level of competition.
Though there are several advantages to digital learning, we cannot overlook the downsides.
FIrstly, it's quite easy to lose concentration in digital learning. Because you are only gazing at a screen, it is easy to get the impression that you are viewing a YouTube video. This might occasionally cause you to lose interest in the subject and lead you astray without your knowledge.
While online education is far less expensive than traditional education, it still needs students to purchase laptops or other devices. While this is cheap and feasible for many, it remains unattainable for others. We have seen and heard several tales of parents risking their life savings and wages to purchase laptops and cellphones so their children may receive online education during this pandemic. Moreover, while digital education provides several advantages, many students feel isolated and depressed due to the sheer lack of human contact and peer socialisation. In virtual learning, both students and teachers are susceptible to this sensation of isolation.
On top of that, many parents are concerned about their child's health, as sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end is dangerous. Prolonged staring at a screen can also wreak havoc on their vision. Additionally, back issues may occur as a result of improper sitting postures.
Furthermore, students who wish to learn online must have a strong internet connection. If a student's internet connection is poor, he or she may miss a lot of crucial information due to buffering. Internet connection is also an additional expense that will need students to pay for.
Students will lack social skills: Many students who study in this approach will lack social skills since digital learning does not need social contact. This might become a problem for youngsters in the future. A lack of touch with peers may hinder a student's ability to cooperate.
Finally, teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to assess their pupils during exams as a result of digital learning. Teachers will have no way of knowing whether or not pupils cheated on the exam, as they will not be physically there to assess them.
Taminul Islam is a Final year student, Department of Computer Science & Engineering at Daffodil International University
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.