The COVID19 pandemic has shaken us all. But our children have been the most affected by it. Almost overnight, they were asked to change their expectations of what ‘routine’ or ‘normal’ looks like. While parents struggled to keep them meaningfully engaged, children struggled with feelings of anxiety, loneliness and boredom. Coronavirus has forced children in the confinement of four walls and away from educators and peers.
Shifting learning online has been a patchy and gargantuan task in India. Only about 24% Indians own a smart phone and when it comes to computers the picture is even bleaker at 11%. That is the reason why the penetration of online learning has been dismal and unequitable.
For those parents who are working from home, shifting both office and their child’s school online has been overwhelming and demanding on time. To top that, tech-challenged educators were scrambling to shift lessons online and discover ways to engage restless little ones.
Through this rollercoaster of experiences that the COVID lockdown has afforded us, there is a lot that we have had to adapt to. Accelerated digitization of both households and businesses has been the single largest factor that has affected the country and is set to change the way things are done forever.
But when it comes to online education, apart from collaborative technology and appropriate content, the key to success in online facilitation is understanding how to engage students meaningfully and fostering and environment of interactive and holistic learning.
There isn’t one perfect recipe to getting it right. If there’s something we have learnt over our 100 years at Dale Carnegie it is that engagement in learning comes from a deep understanding of what your audience needs combined with a robust methodology that lets you achieve consistent and repeatable results every time. This methodology has to be a mix of time-tested principles and the amalgamation of detailed observations of which learning strategy is the most impactful for the audience.
Based on our vast experience with varied audiences and learning formats, I believe that in order for online learning to be effective, it needs to keep the following things in mind –
In order for educators to achieve desired results from remote learning, effective communication and preparation is vital. Both students and educators need to be trained in using technology effectively. Shifting learning online is not as easy as moving to a conferencing tool. It begins with well prepared educators who are trained in making remote learning effective. In fact, even students who are shifting to online learning need to be prepared with the requirements and mindset required to learn effectively in a virtual format. It begins with basic things like good internet connectivity and also includes basic etiquettes to be followed while on a virtual platform.
Remote Learning is new for both educators and children across the world. So it makes no sense to pretend that we are fully adjusted and comfortable with it. When we come to terms with the fact that this is going to be an evolving experience, we can shift our attention to truly absorbing the learning we gather from every failed attempt. I truly believe that educators who emerge as successful would be the ones that have paid close attention to what is working and are actively leveraging these strengths to improve the remote learning experience
There are schools that have made use of the vast range that technology is affording them and are cramming hundreds of students who would have otherwise been in different divisions into one online session. This has affected the educator’s ability to engage students who are prone to have wandering attentions. An average human cannot pay quality attention to a lecture after about 20 minutes into it. Given the plethora of research that supports this fact, it might be a good idea to keep shorter classes and smaller classroom sizes where teachers are able to engage students effectively. The doses of information shared in the class should be shorter to allow retention.
The truth about online learning is that it can only be successful if parents and educators are able to encourage their students towards the path of self learning. This requires two things – pedagogy of teachers and resolution on part of parents. Teachers must design sessions in such a manner that students are encouraged to explore the topic in their own way and report the learning. This is the time when parents and educators should work on inculcating the essential qualities of accountability and curiosity in their children.
A big factor in the success of education , especially online learning is the partnership between parents and educators. If self learning is to become an integral part of the learning process, it has to be driven at both ends. Apart from that, teachers must collaborate with parents to not just set expectations from this new format of learning but also complement their teaching efforts with activities and exposure at home.
Remote working has highlighted the fact that only the best and most self driven people will be able to excel in this new future of work. Educational sessions when driven by your best pedagogy are more likely to yield meaningful learning to students. But it is just as important to complement talented educators with the best training techniques. When talent meets training, the result can be phenomenal. From designing sessions to deciding activities and moulding the material for online delivery too, good training can become the difference between superficial learning and transformation
Children and adults alike engage and learn better when learning is reinforced by different formats. While live online is the best way to personalize the learning experience, asynchronous formats like videos and offline activities will help reinforce the learning amongst participants. Even in a live online format, it is important to add elements like polls, breakout rooms, activities to break the monotony and engage everyone better. A successful online session would be one that combines the talent of the presenter, the enthusiasm of the audience and the dynamism of the session design to encourage learning that turns into effective education.
While shifting learning online has been inevitable due to the prolonged lockdowns that were necessary to contain the COVID19 pandemic, the verdict about whether the shift has been made effectively is mixed. Remote learning might not be a sustainable solution given the unequitable nature of technology and resources, but it can be far more impactful if the management, teachers and parents work in harmony to make a safe and fun environment of learning for children. Open channels of communication, adequate training and attention can make this new form of learning much more effective.