The novel coronavirus has created a plethora of challenges for people worldwide, but a major victim of the lockdowns are the students and learners at all levels. As of March 28, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is reported to be causing more than 1.6 billion children and youth to be out of school in 161 countries. This is close to 80% of the world’s enrolled students. Here, in this article, we discuss 7 challenges being faced by students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Time and Workload Management
Everyone has to agree to this. Due to the coronavirus lockdown, schedule management and timing of activities has become the task of students themselves. With the introduction of self-paced programs, the onus is now on the student to plan out his/her study and leisure time. Such a plan may be possible for self-motivated individuals, but for those who need regular nudging from parents, it has created a huge problem of procrastination and ignorance.
2. Access to Information and Communication Equipment
Modern day learning is highly reliant on information and communication technology hardware. Such needs of a personal device have created a huge problem for households having shared devices. Moreover, due to the lockdown, even purchasing new equipment has become an uphill task. This results in the online model of education being non-democratic, thus exacerbating inequality. It makes education the sole right of the ‘haves’ over the ‘have nots’. Online education becomes inaccessible to the masses in developing countries, making education an unlevelled playing field. While the rich countries are able to cope up well, the conditions in undeveloped and underdeveloped nations are of mixed type.
Align with this, high-speed internet is still not available even in the most developed parts of the world, leave alone developing nations. With the advent of classes on Zoom, Skype, Teams, Webex etc. high-speed internet is a must for video conferencing. For the rural or developing world which is dependent mostly on mobile data, lack of connectivity has resulted in access to poor quality of videos.
3. Resource Overload Curse
That exists for real. What might seem as a ‘resource’ could simply lead some for more confusion. Although the internet has lots of content which might seem a boon for an avid learner, but with every resource in excess, comes a resource curse – the wastage. Knowledge never goes waste, time does. A quick glance through a book or a classroom lecture on a topic, say, the American War of Independence for a Class 8th student would give him sufficient details for his exam preparation. However, a Google search for the same will flood him with truckloads of information which he may not be able to digest. Instead, he ends up spending too much time on a topic, researching and reading about it beyond the scope of syllabus, thus, compromising on other topics that are part of his curriculum.
With online learning comes the complex world of social media, advertisements, marketing, e-commerce and all the distractions associated with them. A student can easily get distracted. So, a student reading a Wiki page may suddenly wander onto Facebook or Instagram. Such distractions can be detrimental for learning and can result in wastage of time and energy.
4. Lack of Interest Due to Non-Engaging Content
This is one factor that deeply impacts students. Being virtually present in an online classroom and being physically present in the traditional classroom has its own differences. A teacher can engage a student much more effectively in a traditional classroom. Whereas, in an online classroom, the student might lack interaction and attention from the teacher. Online classrooms become more of a monologue, with the content not meeting the needs of the students requiring more engaging and insightful study. Individual’s problems and their understanding can be catered to in a more holistic way through an offline model.
Testbook, an India based ed-tech startup, recently came up with a new concept of ‘live coaching’ in both web and mobile application formats. This concept ensures that a student gets a personal coach to interact with, gain conceptual clarity, solve doubts and to stay motivated and engaged.
5. Lack of Assessments Leading to Poor Learning Outcomes
No education is complete without tests and assessments. Online learning may lack a transparent, competitive and fair means of testing and assessment. The model more often depends on the integrity of students for their tests and assignments.
6. Online vs Traditional Model Debate
Technology has wrapped itself all around our lives. But for online education vs. traditional ways of learning, technology boon is still a topic of debate. For a student taking online classes at home, he’d surely have a hold on abundant study material from all over the Internet. But, at the same time, the student misses on interaction with other students and does not receive direct attention from the teacher. Motivation is a major factor at play in online learning.
7. Dommed Dreams of Abroad Education
Due to lockdown, many international universities have imposed restrictions on having students at their campus. All the enrolled students are completing their courses online. Many universities are not providing new admissions to international students. This has raised serious concerns amongst abroad-education aspirants in terms of ROI, placements and their future on the whole. Also, there is a big doubt on how effective an online course would be as compared to a fulltime on campus course. Such dilemmas are stressing out students.
The challenges faced by students in the COVID-19 crisis must be taken as an opportunity to upgrade the current education system. Bridging the gap between monotonous non-interactive, e-learning experiences and regular classroom experience, is the need of the hour in order to ensure effective and quality education digitally. Proper training must be provided to the teachers so that they are skilled enough to use the digital teaching tools efficiently and deliver high quality content. Alongside this, the digital infrastructure must be upgraded to accommodate online learning.