This article compares the learning experiences and requirements of online vs. onsite education in Pakistan. Post COVID situation of the World remain unassertive. Major economies are dealing with post traumatic stress and trying to recover from the irreparable damage. While businesses and jobs were affected around the World, a major blow came for educational institutes as well. Few schools had to shut their doors for both students and teachers for a whole year while other suffered a permanent closure. Most of the schools in the private sector of Pakistan cut their costs by forceful expulsions of their teachers. While other tried to sustain their educators and children by providing online education while they could. During the period of uncertainty, some schools adapted to the change faster than the others. Assignments were prepared and shared on Google Classrooms, WhatsApp messenger and Schoology, while online classes were taken on famous apps such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Hangouts.
Schools then resumed their on-site learning activities from the month of August in Pakistan. However, after the sudden surge in the second wave of the COVID, the government declared school closures again. During the months the schools were open, both pros and cons of the online and onsite learning systems were discussed at our workplace. Educators as well as parents were of different views. A few of the observations and their solutions are recorded below which is merely the author’s viewpoint.
Online learning was the need of the time. Had we been a generation without internet, we might not have survived this outbreak. But there are both positives and negatives attached to it.
Online learning around the World has a reputation of being more cost-effective and convenient. In a study conducted by WR Hembrecht and Co, it was revealed that online teaching improves retention 25-30% in slow learners or those with special learning needs. University students can benefit more from it because of more sequenced syllabi. A fair number of universities have already shifted to this method of teaching pre-COVID outbreak due to the above stated reason. More courses were introduced ranging from photography and dance to physiology and virology. Online learning comes with the advantage of the ease of studying at your convenience. Newer techniques of learning were introduced. Teachers instigated newer ways of connecting with their students behind the screens. It is easier to submit assignments online especially for lazy bones who do not want to pick a pen and write. Somehow, this new system of education made teachers more synchronized with the latest techniques. Conventional teaching methods were changed to contemporary teaching styles.
While students were happy to be staying at home, teachers were under immense pressure. Most of them had to take care of their own children along with those in their classrooms. Without proper training and facilities, teachers felt like that blind man who is looking for a black cat in a dark room. The education system of our country was not ready for such a quick change. Most of the teachers were not technology savvy and fought the change with fervor. Still, the private sector adopted better than the public sector. Since, physical proximity with a teacher and class fellows was lost, students struggled with behavior issues. Online time could not make up for the social awareness that is taught only in a school environment. Classes were taken with a callous attitude and examinations lost their importance. The list of missing assignments grew and the casual attitude of the children flourished. New and more creative ways of disturbing online classes and cheating in the exams were discovered. Students complained that online learning is not effective and it is difficult to stay glued to the screen for such a long time to study (rolls eyes towards the ceiling-hey, don’t you stay online to watch YouTube anyhow?). Hands on experience were lost with a little to no exposure to laboratories. A few parents also complained about either incomplete/unfinished syllabus or the ease of it. While others did not want to pay the fees as the teacher behind a screen is no teacher at all. Schools could not pay teacher salaries on time and had to let go of a few of them.
Clearly, most of the parents in our country are staunch believers of Brick and mortar education system which is traditional way of learning by attending classes physically, but in view of the current situation, we need to fully consider all facts and figures before reaching a conclusion. Interestingly, in an article by Potomac University, the author claims that 77% educators and 70% students believe that online learning is as good as onsite learning. But theoretically speaking, there is no denying the fact that humans psychologically and emotionally learn best when interacting with other humans.
The main factor that proves to be a powerful reason in supporting the positive attributes of onsite learning is social and physical connection of a child with his peers and teachers. You learn to share, bond and connect for survival. Learning is better in a face to face interaction because queries are resolved on spot. There are less chances of “zoning out” and distractions during classroom teaching and with the supervision of a teacher, teaching is better standardized than online teaching. Some of the online methods involve watching videos and reading text which is not as powerful a tool as a teacher alone. It also allows students to learn at the same pace. The conventional methods of teaching have the most positives comparatively.
Looking at the current situation, physical learning is becoming more challenging for the educational institutes and online learning is quickly replacing all forms of physical education. It’s difficult to maintain hygienic environment in places with the most physical contact like washrooms. Therefore, majority of the institutes are opting for online learning.
However, if you look at the cons of onsite leaning, you would notice that there are not enough disadvantages. The conventional form of teacher-student relationship with face to face learning is still preferred over all forms of education. Most of the people still consider teachers (not Google and other apps) the one with the best knowledge.
The Founder Principal of Foundation Public School system, Mrs. Yasmin R. Minhas shares her views on which system best suits our non progressive mindsets and says that since she is not representing the majority she suggests that schools should keep a balance in between the two looking at the current situation. For those, who can afford online learning should create a hybrid model which has both online and onsite learning where students benefit from a little of both the worlds. She further added that we are still not ready to take the challenges of the New World head on as the GDP spent on education is very low. However, she praises the teachers of our country by saying that we have provided far more socio-emotional support during the pandemic as compared to the West as our future generation would be affected emotionally as well as academically.
As an educator, the author believes in the any form of education to the students, whether its online or onsite, that is progressive, helpful, has an end point in mind, is safe and is able to teach something to the students. Schools must keep the safety of the students in mind before making any decisions.
To read my previous article on 5th Generation warfare, click on the link:
The author has done masters in pharmacy but found her skills best utilized in the field of research and writing. She is based in Karachi.
For feedback and comments: [email protected]