Why Zoom™ and WhatsApp™ is not eLearning?

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the entire academic year, rescheduled classes and cancelled examinations across the country. To ensure that students do not miss out on their studies and academic year, educational institutes from pre-school to universities and coaching institutes have moved classes online through web-conferencing tools, forcing students to attend classes via their devices and access notes via E-mails, WhatsApp, etc. While this has helped institutes to fill the void created by the disruption, there is a raging debate going on regarding the efficacy of this model and have raised even question about sustainability of eLearning in the classroom based learning model.

Challenges with the current model of eLearning

There are 3 main stakeholders – students, teachers and administrators. It will be observed that the currently adopted method is far from giving a wholesome education experience and at best is a compromise for each of the stake holder. The problem is, we have islands of technology and no one stakeholder gets integrated experience.

Image Courtesy: Microsoft

Imagine for a teacher - who has to manage different elements of technology, get over camera shyness, manage a large batch of students and keep them engaged, maintain interactivity, check their understanding through assessments, and so on. The teacher is totally on unfamiliar ground.

Image Courtesy: Microsoft

Likewise, for a student who has to keep his/her attention for a long duration and many a time in non-interactive lectures. Students have also to manage different islands of technology like zoom for live lectures, some other link for recorded lectures (which in most cases is non-existent as institutes don’t have necessary expertise), WhatsApp for assignments and notes, and some other system for assessment. So the student is also lost.
The administrator has only short term vision to use technologies which is low cost or free, thinking that the normal routine of classroom learning will return soon! Moreover, administrator is clueless on what’s going on, gets fragmented and unconnected information and doesn’t get integrated report for any meaningful decision or action. So all stakeholders feel classroom learning was better, thus giving bad name to eLearning.
However, this need not be the case if proper system is deployed and training/hand holding is given to all stakeholders. What is needed is single window system to multiple technologies to give a seamless experience

Ideal eLearning Solution

The need of the hour is to ensure learning never stops. And the best solution is one that can replicate the real-life classroom environment while sitting at home and brings all its advantages to an online classroom and offers far more with the use of digital technologies. The solution to this is a system where all features are available to all stake holders with just a click with ample support, so no one is handicapped.

  1. A platform where all the resources are available to teachers, students and administrators at one location. This includes administrative functions, online lectures, content management, assessments and much more.
  2. Provides a gamut of interactive and social collaborative tools on a single platform. Social learning is an important facet of school learning and technology can enable social learning by using chats, discussion forums, comment boards, quizzes, etc.
  3. The platform should help the institutes to conduct periodic assessments, provide leader boards and award grades /stars to top performers. The assessment mechanism can be used not only to award results but also identify weak students and focus on them for improvements.
  4. Proctoring – If the lockdown continues and it reaches a situation where final examinations need to be conducted online, the platform should allow proctored examinations with live video/photo capture and other security features to maintain the sanctity of the examination.
  5. Flexibility of Learning at your convenience. There is a need to provide a blended learning with online classrooms as well as the flexibility of learning at your own pace and convenience.
  6. Online admin and tech support to administrators, teaching staff and learners.

All this comes at a small cost and the ROI can be recovered quickly. Decision makers/administrators shouldn’t mind this cost as the education experience and outcome for all stake holders will more than compensate the cost involved.

So Far, So Good

The shift to online learning can be a tedious one and difficult one for a lot of constituents. To be successful at par or better than classroom teaching it requires restructuring course components using new pedagogical approaches, learning methodologies and tools that may be new to teachers and students.

It is time, institutions develop good quality self-paced, video content covering the syllabus with simulation/scenarios, using step-by-step method of learning for subjects like maths and statistics, etc. This can take care of the syllabus completion. Students can go thru these lectures anytime and as many number of times at their own pace and understanding. Discussion forums can be used to ask questions which teachers can respond in a time bound manner. The live lectures can be taken only for difficult topics and case studies, problem solving, etc. and not for syllabus completion as is being done now.

The pandemic has provided great opportunity to integrate eLearning in the normal education routine too. There are many advantages of eLearning which are missing in classroom learning. Some of these are never missed classes and facility of as many times learning, possibility of personalised learning, tracking and timely intervention for better outcome, remote tracking and assessment and supplementing even practical lessons with simulation and scenario based learning. No doubt, social learning and inter-personal interactions will remain forte of classroom learning. Schools can even focus more on cultural and sports activities and leave most academic learning/course completion to eLearning, thus paving the way for holistic development of students. But for that education institutions have to adopt more comprehensive eLearning experience and not just rely on zoom and WhatsApp.

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Manish is the COO and Co-Founder of GurukulOnline Learning Solutions (GOLS), an eLearning provider with end-to-end in-house capabilities in terms of consulting, platform and content development. GOLS is disrupting and creating waves in the eLearning industry both from corporate and educational institute focussed learning solutions. He is accredited with 100% successful project delivery and has helped clients win many prestigious awards for innovative eLearning solutions.

Manish has over 27 years of in business leadership, operations, finance, and strategy and is an acknowledged authority on eLearning having worked in this field for the last 15 years.
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