By Mr. Sameer Joshi
Associate Vice President, Marketing (B2B) - Godrej Interio
The pandemic has drastically altered your existence. The various lockdowns imposed all over the world to battle its spread have brought our lives to a shuddering halt. What we considered normalcy has been upended by the ‘new normal’. It has changed the way we work, shop, eat and even the way our kids’ study.
Yes, study. Education is perhaps the sector that has had the hardest time coming to terms with the new normal. While everyone has had their challenges in adapting to the new way of life, the obstacles to change have been the highest to overcome in education. The education sector has had to make the biggest jump of going from its chalk-and-blackboard to a digitized virtual classroom experience.
Unlike offices and employees’ schools and colleges were not initially equipped to teach virtually due to several factors including a lack of IT infrastructure as well as training for teachers.
Yet, despite a few niggles and teething troubles, a survey conducted by Godrej Interio revealed that the sector has adapted well to its new virtual normal.
For example, 78 percent of children polled in the survey said they enjoyed the online learning environment and were actually happy attending their virtual classrooms as they could learn while at home.
Similarly, 75 percent said they were communicating better with their teachers in a virtual setting as compared to an actual classroom as even shy kids could now communicate with their teachers via message.
85 percent, meanwhile, said they are now able to understand concepts better.
Parents too have welcomed the shift to a virtual classroom. They can now be part of their child’s teaching process even if they may not directly involve themselves in the lesson. They can monitor how their child is being taught, observe when their child is paying attention, whether she or he has understood the concept that is being taught and so on. The children even had more time now to pursue extra-curricular activities and cultivate hobbies.
The benefits a virtual classroom offers are plenty, but their several negatives that outweigh the positives.
About 50 percent of the parents polled in the Godrej Interio study said their children were far more easily distracted in the home environment. Technical glitches also affected 62 percent of the children polled while 22 and 14 percent respectively attended classes either sprawled on their beds or seated on the floor.
While virtual classrooms have ensured continuity in learning amid the lockdown, they are limited in what they can teach students.
Yes, they are adequate at covering the prescribed syllabus, but they fall woefully short when it comes to teaching students softer skills that can only be taught in a classroom. This can be detrimental to the all-around development of a child, particularly younger children.
Still, getting students back to brick-and-mortar classrooms is easier said than done. Even with students returning to schools, the post-COVID classroom will look very different
Schools cannot go back to the pre-pandemic normal if they are to keep students safe and earn the trust of parents enough to convince them to send their children back to physical classrooms.
But they can combine technology, ergonomics, and space management to strike an ideal balance between the virtual and real world.
Social distancing is going to have to be maintained in any classroom setting going forward. But Indian classrooms typically tend to have a high student-teacher ratio which makes it difficult to follow social distancing. However, with technology, there are several innovative ways all 50 or 60 students can be taught while still maintaining a healthy student-teacher ratio
One such method is split scheduling and blended learning. Students can be divided into groups. These groups can alternate between the physical and virtual classrooms. For instance, on Mondays, you can have Group I in the physical classroom while Groups 2 and 3 attend virtually. On Tuesday Group 2 goes to school while Groups 1 and 3 attend virtually.
Another way is to reconfigure the classroom. Schools can make them more modular by using movable furniture with wheels that can be arranged in different configurations to ensure adequate separation. Other measures like seating one student per desk and so on can also be adopted
Schools can also repurpose larger areas such as halls, auditoriums, and canteens and use them as classrooms. This will allow them to accommodate more students while still maintaining adequate distancing.
To guarantee further safety, schools can also install partitions between desks especially in libraries and computer labs as well as staff rooms and administration offices.
So once the new normalcy prevails, ensure adequate measures are in place to provide a safe learning environment for the kids.