Analysing online education system amid Covid-19
Developing information and actualities about COVID-19 will help to reduce students' uncertainties and anxieties about the disease and support their ability to cope with any secondary impacts in their lives. Maintaining safe institutional operations or reopening educational institutions after a cessation requires many considerations but, if done well, can promote safe education. But, during the nationwide lockdown period - there ascends a question of having an online education system. TomooHozumi, UNICEF Country Representative in Bangladesh said, "Like in many parts of the world, schools in Bangladesh had to be closed to minimize the risk of infection for children and school employees in this unprecedented situation. We need to rethink and collectively act now to continue different types of learning in the home environment to reduce the negative impact of the current situation on children and society as a whole".
The protection of students and educational facilities is particularly important. The purpose of this article is to discuss about boundaries for continuing education through online education system. These may be as follows:
1. Fear and anxiety about the education are causing overwhelming stress for the students. While receiving different information it is piling up their stresses, sharing the real facts and understanding the appropriate system would reduce their stresses. Moreover, this helps the authorities to organize better and manage the crisis.
2. Preparedness is the key to addressing any educational crisis, and so far, Bangladesh, as a lower-middle-income country, has numerous limitations in the spread of the online educational system. Improvised and timely measures taken with proper coordination with the teacher and student may help usto combat or fight the situation.
3. Not all the students of the educational institutions are from the same background and some have very limited access to internet which is mandatory for taking online classes. Therefore, taking any severe decision can put their lives in danger.
4. Not all the students of the educational institutions are financially strong and many of them live in a vulnerable position. Moving to online classes without considering their predicaments will be an unfair passage. Though across the country, a number of private universities have shifted to online classes to continue academic activities. But, their percentage is very low compared to all over the country.
6. One of the principal problems that most developing countries face is - unavailability of a stable internet connection. Even if the students are able to attend the classes, they have difficulties following the lecture as the network breaks down every now and then and they are not able to accurately communicate with the teachers. This problem becomes difficult when it originates to students who have gone to visit their families in rural areas.
7. The quality of online classes is not the same as in-person classes. These are less attractive than normal classes, because, face-to-face contact is essential for having a more fruitful learning technique. On the other hand, conducting online exams, quizzes, presentations or any sort of graded activity through online platforms is difficult.
8. Some students, especially from the technical background faces difficulty in understanding equations and doing math via online classes given that not all the teachers have whiteboards and thus understanding the topics becomes difficult.
9. Only text-based lecturing is the way of teaching and learning mode in Bangladesh. Loss of academic years and dropping out from the study in different levels caused by the political clash between therival parties. Socialscientists have traditionally assumed that, education is a major determinant of citizens' political orientations and behavior.Several studies have also shown that intelligence has an impact - intelligence should promote civil attitudes, habits and norms like diligence, order and liberty. Political leaders' interferences in execution of decisions taken for educational development in different levels make slow and steady in educational progress. Here is most interesting that all participants sought out political instability as a big bar for online education system in Bangladesh.
10. Bangladesh is undergoingnerve-racking energy challenges. As a slow and steady developing country, electricity production has not been increased so far expectation of its population in last few decades. Continuation of electricity supply and modern technology based online learning are linked with each other. One is part and parcel of other.
11. There is no mode to implement online learning without ensuring infrastructural establishment. It is based upon three fundamental criteria: networked, delivered to the end-user via a computer using standard internet technology and focuses on the broadest view of learning. Students and teachers are mostly away from the benefits of online learning due to unavailability of infrastructural facilities diagonally the educational institutions.
12. Most of the teachers in Bangladesh especially in the primary and secondary level have no basic knowledge on computer operating and even have no email account for communication. Their artificial levels of effectiveness in surviving with the demands of the comprehensive classroom are habitually determined by the 'sufficiency' of training for annexation.
13. Developing countries like Bangladesh are suffering fromfinancial support for execution of any decision on particular issues like establishment of online education system. The budget for education it has in each financial year are not yet sufficient enough for lifting up the status of educational system across the country.
Therefore, online education system demands careful policy decision and execution. Policy makers must consider the modality for its impact on infrastructure needs, program development, and strategic planning. For being a more effective online learning system the following positive issues could be keep in mind.
1. The classes should always be recorded by the teachers and students as well for ensuring the availability of the constituents when it is felt necessary. Teachercould also avoid taking exams in a specific prescribed format and time.
2. The good aspect of online classes is that it doesn't require much logistics. It has the effect where concerned parties can communicate right away, provided they have means to do so- a smartphone with functioning internet. Because, it is argued that almost all the students have access to a smartphone, if not a laptop. In case of higher education, the authority or the guardian can ensure it.
3. Online classes obligated a 'democratic' aspect where students who couldn't participate in a discussion because of their introverted nature are willing to piece in because the anxiety associated with discomfitures is much less in an online atmosphere.
4. Training for attachment of teachers' preparation programs will alert teachers to enhance recognize the goals, objectives, and implementation strategies for the various support services available to better furnish for general students and disabilities as well. Increased knowledge would escalate their level of confidence and enhance the performances of both the teacher and the student by utilizing information and communication technology (ICT) for the purpose of teaching-learning.
5. Our mindset towards online degree would have to be changed. On a time, an online degree has never been seen as a "real" degree. Students having an online degree from any institution would count for little if he went for an interview at any of our institutions.
6. Most teachers in Bangladesh do not have any experience of teaching exclusively online and are unfamiliar with online assessment techniques or the work that is involved in redesigning the courses. That does not necessarily mean that they cannot teach. It needs training and if possible, infrastructural support for that.
7. If there are a huge number of students in a class then it becomes impossible to handle in the best of times. Consequently, the number of students should be based on the available facilities.
In conclusion it would be better if the government and the institutions especially the universities finally decide to change their traditional and antiquated mindset regarding online teaching and learning, by considering the issues being discussed. We do not want to think this was what it meant by online education, that this is an emergency response during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bill Gates stated that the use of technology for remote learning has made the inequity in education even worse.
Now, for our overnight appreciation for virtual teaching and learning, the government needs to be cautious before implementing decisions regarding a blanket adaptation of distance learning. In fact, distance learning, remote learning, online learning is necessary. However, it must be well equipped to provide these podiums.
The writer is Professor Department of Economics, Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, Dinajpur