Challenges for E-Learning – ‘Connecting with People’

The Covid-19 crisis has had an unprecedented impact on education. The education of more than 90 percent students globally was disrupted by institutional closures. When the pandemic struck the education sector was clearly not prepared and had to look for immediate solutions. E- Learning was a preferred option, but how many students have access to electricity, computers and connectivity. Only half the world’s population have internet access with the wide variation within the commonwealth ranging from nearly 95 percent access in a rich country like Brunei to less than 15 percent in some of the others. While the status of mobile subscriptions is more encouraging with over 100 percent in most countries access is not universal. While students with resources have continued to learn, it is the poorest children who have been hardest hit. UNESCO estimates that about 11 million girls may never return to school due to this crisis. In pre-covid 19 days the poor children in the remote region in Bangladesh studied in the boat schools which picked them up from the villages and dropped them home after classes were over. As this was no longer possible in the pandemic the only way to reach them was to bring the teachers to the communities and maintain social distance. The only technology available to these children is print materials. Another constituency that is in danger of being further marginalized during this crisis are persons with disabilities. Even in normal circumstances the participation of persons with disabilities in higher education has been very low especially in developing countries such as India and South Africa. Another impact of the pandemic has been low morale and motivation especially among women and girls from remote regions. No one was prepared for the sudden transition to E- Learning. Teachers had to move overnight from classroom lectures to online mode. Students had to learn remotely without any support and parents were expected to help students with their lessons. So, would access to quality content help researchers in Canada analyzed three types of interactions Students- content, student -student and student teacher to identify which had the best impact on learning outcomes and they found that the student- content interaction was by far the most effective since content is important, where do we find quality content. Today we have a vast resource of open content or(OER)open educational resources on the Internet. OER are educational materials which have been made freely available under an open license and can be adopted, adapted, translated according to local needs. A CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) study in Antigua and Barbuda showed that using OER reduced the cost of textbooks for students and improved learning outcomes and this quality content is available for use as we make the transition to E- Learning. CALL(computer assisted language learning) has developed a repository of OER in higher education. Teacher Training and skill development that could also be of use. Learners needed a great deal of support during this crisis. Some Institutions invested in 24 into 7 online hubs and call centers. Learning and analytics have helped to provide personalized learning and kept human touch Alive. Assessment has been another challenge during this crisis. Artificial Intelligence based assessment is very helpful because it constantly provides feedback to learners, teachers and parents about how the students learn, the support they need and the progress they are making. Micro credentials are leading to the possibility of offering shorter just in time courses that can be taken at one’s pace or time. The crisis has highlighted the need for more flexibility and the need to offer continuous assessment through assignments and portfolios. As the teacher make the difficult transition from classroom teaching to online provision, they need capacity building. CALL is offering free massive open online courses or Moocs on technology enabled and blended learning jointly with Athabasca University in Canada for teachers anywhere in the world. For effective E-Learning we need to also build the capacity of policymakers and practitioners government can develop enabling policies and regulations to promote blended learning to make the education sector more flexible and resilient to deal with future challenges for institutions, the top priority must be to build the capacity of both staff and student in E- Learning.

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