2020 has seen another massive tide of changes specifically in the field of education. Students as well as teachers are in a muddle trying to catch up to the disruption in the balance of the usual academic practices. Academic Institutions were closed on short notice, and thus, students rushed back home under adverse circumstances, leaving behind many essential belongings, little to realise, the lockdown would be never-ending. Majority of competitive examinations such as JEE & NEET and board examinations were halted to contain the spread of the virus. Physical distancing norms paved the path to bring virtual reality to the stage. Although online education has existed for a time now, it has boomed since the disruption and has certainly posed many new questions.
First, are we technically equipped enough to move into virtual learning? In some places, where the 3G is a distant dream, online classes are nightmares. Stepping into the virtual world requires the necessary infrastructure and sound environment, which is lacking in most of the households in many developing nations. The obstacle now is to determine how to make the online mode more inclusive of students from all backgrounds. The internet unlocks the gateway of unlimited information, and we need to find a way to help every student reach the entrance.
Secondly, the online environment may change the perception of exams and evaluation forever. The online mode of examinations raises some severe concerns of plagiarism and use of unfair means. The quality of education ought to improve in this scenario. Teachers would need to re-define their teaching methodology to fit into this new academic model. Frameworks and tools favouring peer-to-peer evaluations and group activities would propel it’s way into the future.
Thirdly, how will institutions justify the fees paid by students? Considering the rapidly increasing cost of education, most families would hesitate to pay the hefty fees due to this sudden interruption and massive change. In such a scenario, institutions should consider investing more in setting up proper infrastructure for imparting lessons as well as evaluations. If accredited institutions cannot surpass the level of comfortable and easy learning as compared to pre-existing course providers such as EdX, Coursera and Udemy, they might lose their reputability. The next question is how recruiters will credit the courses undertaken, whether online or offline and how it will impact placement procedures. Distant learning has always been considered inferior to the physical classroom setup. And this disruption might just be the key to paving the way towards an improved system, one where people can obtain high quality education even while sitting in the remotest parts of the world.
The paediatric combination vaccines, that took 11 years to develop, is considered one of the “fastest” developed vaccines in the history of mankind. On the other hand, the target to formulate a vaccine for COVID-19 is 18 months. Unfortunately, since we may not see a cure by the end of 2020, it is imperative that any changes in this period would sustain for longer periods in the future. Hence, we may see a blend of online and offline interactions in education as well as the corporate sector. This transition period is very crucial and will refine the perspective of virtual reality. 2020 will always be remembered as the year of catastrophes and changes. We may miss the work desks, sharing lunch boxes, late-night binge-watching with friends and the trips but, we might have something better in store in the future because this too shall pass.
– Sandipan Roy