With the immediate lockdown being the only solution to prevent the spread of deadly contagion, the concept of virtual / hybrid learning emerged as a saviour
By Sonya Ghandy Mehta
The sudden onslaught of the pandemic pushed schools and educational institutions to adopt a hybrid learning system to ensure continuous and seamless delivery of study programs to the students. With the immediate lockdown being the only solution to prevent the spread of deadly contagion, the concept of virtual / hybrid learning emerged as a saviour. Both parents and schools welcomed it. It helped in keeping the learning going while maintaining the safety and security of the children. However, the past two years of virtual learning cannot wipe away the impact and significance of physical classroom scenarios. The traditional education system, encompassing brick-mortar schools, provides children with holistic development. It is not limited to academic learning but includes elements beyond education like developing social skills, communicating, bonding, sharing, showing empathy, and gaining sensitivity to handle real-life situations. Schools are an institution of learning where children understand different aspects of life, which goes above and beyond textbooks content.
Schools play all the more crucial roles in the early impressionable years of children as the institution’s learning environment teaches them teamwork and cooperation along with providing them tools to be not only ace professionals but also better human beings. Besides, school education is a key factor in deciding a child’s overall development in terms of knowledge, growth, social and interactive skills.
A famous quote by American polymath, Benjamin Franklin, says, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” It is this involvement which physical educational systems provide to immerse children in learning new concepts and developing new ideas.
Hybrid education has definitely widened the accessibility of inclusive and equitable quality education, but it cannot assure the social, cultural and emotional development of a child. Sometimes students feel isolated due to the absence of human interaction, remoteness, and contemplation. This feeling of being left out can put anyone at a higher risk of emotional imbalance, stress, anxiety, and negativity, let alone the little sensitive souls. However, classroom education pushes students to stay motivated with face-to-face communication, and peer-group activities. Besides, the school’s set schedule adds discipline and order to students’ lives by engaging them through exciting collective learning techniques. It also helps teachers keep track of students’ performance, learning ability, and mental health, despite requiring the latter to voice the issue. Apart from learning, managing assignments and homework is easier in an offline school system as deadlines can be moved case-by-case. At the same time, the online mode of education is more impersonal. If a student is battling a certain form of meltdown or feeling demotivated, or lacks enough willpower or discipline to follow study schedule, will lose attention or interest to complete assignments, resulting in feeling overwhelmed and more burdened by the increased workload.
School education is the perfect blend of online and offline learning, but not every subject can be taught online. For instance, science, sports, and physical education are subjects that cannot be taught only digitally. These subjects demand extra concentration and attentiveness, which is better when students are learning in the physical presence of a teacher. In a physical classroom setup, teachers can identify well if students have understood concepts or they still have doubts. Classroom learning provides students with a more conducive environment to express their thought, ideas, and concepts via different activities like discussions, debates, quizzes and promotes healthy competitions. Also, it is easy for teachers to observe their students and check the engagement level, which has become a key challenge in the virtual learning environment. Students ‘ attention span stands reduced with more distractions around in terms of managing home chores, family issues, or finding a quiet study spot.
The students who are accustomed to continuous stimuli on mobile phones, tablets, and apps get distracted easily and can’t concentrate on the online classes without supervision. The varied content on social media platforms with no regulations is also a matter of grave concern, as it can easily impact student’s mental health, infuse them with inferior complex and hamper their ability to focus and learn.
It is undeniable that the traditional school system enlivens the learning process for children by presenting them with real-life experience and adding experiential, holistic, integrated, inquiry-driven, discovery-oriented, discussion-based approaches to their learning environment. Also, teacher stimulation holds a lot of significance for the daily brain development of a child. However, online learning requires the parents’ supervision, which is somehow limited and, in certain cases, not possible because they are also occupied and juggling with household work and office work.
Digital technology is expensive, and in a country like India, where there is a huge income gap, as well as infrastructural gap, relying on online education will neither be a feasible nor a workable option. Besides, online education requires investment in the internet and devices such as tabs, mobile phones, and laptops for an unhindered flow of classes. Even at the time of the pandemic, many students could not study because of a lack of resources and the digital divide. Hence physical learning is more impactful. It enables students to have face-to-face interaction with friends and teachers and makes the learning process more intriguing and exciting for them. Hybrid Learning is a good second option only when the first option of brick-mortar school is out of the question, but the former cannot replace latter.
(The author is director, Pathways World School, Aravali. Views are personal and not necessarily that of Financial Express Online)