Shubham Roy, 14, was fascinated by the story The Fun They Had in his 9th grade English textbook. It was set in 2157 where computers have taken over teaching and students didn't have to go to school. "I wish we also had virtual schools," he would tell his mother. Well, his wish has come true right here in 2020.
But Shubham is not too happy with online classes. He misses interacting with his classmates, teachers and playing in the school playgrounds. Removing the human element of learning has its own set of problems. He complains, “We have got all classes, except for physical education.”
With Covid-19, e-learning is fast becoming the norm as students come to terms with it. In most schools across the NCR, e-classrooms are not something that either the teachers or the students have handled before. Like any new process, e-learning has its own share of teething problems.
Most schools are using either Zoom, Microsoft Teams and or Google Hangout to teach the students. But like in a classroom, the teacher can't keep an eye on all students. In one instance, a teacher combined three sections of 10th grade for a mathematics class. In five minutes, a student began playing a popular Bollywood number on his computer, leaving the teacher helpless and the rest of the class in splits. With 100-odd students in the class, even if they can be seen in small windows on the screen, it is impossible pinpoint the mischief maker. Now, the school holds classes in smaller batches. It has also issues a few e-classroom etiquette– sit at a proper desk and not in the bed, be properly dressed with no loungewear allowed, no distractions from parents and pets while the class is on.
Another high-profile private school in Gurgaon takes e-classes on Microsoft Teams, with the teacher inviting the students to the team on the basis of an ID and a password. There have been instances where a student from a different school, probably a friend of a student who has been told the the password, has managed to gate-crash and disrupt a class. “The problem with Google-Hangout is that there is no administrator, so teachers are often muted and sometimes removed. So, those students who want to study and follow the class gets disturbed,” says Dhruv Singh, a 10th grade student.
With younger students it can be more chaotic. Says Tanya Bhargava, centre head of a pre-school in Dwarka: "We have a batch of 10 kids in one slot. All the kids and their parents are interacting at the same time. There is too much noise and confusion. We are trying our best to make it interesting and fun for our kids. It is still a new format, with time and practice we will be able to deliver better."
Some areas have internet connectivity problems. If it is bad the videos and audios are not in sync. Many online classes have been cancelled because the teacher couldn’t log on or too few students managed to log in. The fact the teachers can use limited tools is also a challenge. Few teachers have access to a whiteboard. Some teachers are using the in-built screen-sharing tool in Zoom and Microsoft Teams to show their PPTs to the students. The students can ask questions but then it is up to their motivation level.
However, with the lockdown period likely to continue for some time, both the students and teachers are settling down to the new way of learning. The coaching centres – a lifeline for many students, especially in senior classes – are shut and private tuitions are on hold. The students realise their teachers and the e-classes are the only option they have. Happily, many students who took their teachers for granted, have a new-found respect for them.
(Some names are changed to protect identity)