The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has disrupted lives, brought activities to a halt, and has forced people to be locked inside their homes. Here is a discussion on online classes that evolved differently during this period.
India has been coping with a nationwide lockdown with no signs of it being lifted soon. People cannot go to work; students cannot go to schools, colleges, academies, and universities; and no recreational activities are allowed. Since necessity is the mother of all inventions, people across the country have devised ways to deal with the situation. ‘Work from home’ became the norm for working professionals across different spectrums. When it came to students, online classes became the next big thing. Schools, colleges, and even coaching institutes have now resorted to online classes. Every day, teachers are making sure that the students are not missing out on any academic element. But some teachers are now coming up with reasons to not adopt online classes as a practice due to its unsustainable nature. While online classes have emerged as a temporary replacement to classroom learning, the full potential of online teaching is not being tapped.
Megaexams caught-up with SmartPrep Academy’s founder, Kumar Atul to talk about the trend of online classes, how to conduct effective tests, and the growing popularity of online exams amid this lockdown.
Q. What were your initial thoughts about moving your classes online?
The move to immediately shift to online classes is commendable since it did not let the student’s studies suffer. It has proven to be an important measure to ensure education does not stop, come what may. However, online classes are not being used in the right manner. And let’s not forget: online classes are not a permanent solution to the impending problem here. For this, the backbone of these online classes needs to be explored.
There are two methodologies teachers are following, Teachers are recording videos for a lesson and uploading it on an app or its website, or
Teachers are hosting live online lessons that are attended by thousands at once.
Q. What is the problem with pre-recorded online lectures being uploaded for students’ consumption?
The biggest problem with pre-recorded online lessons is the lack of interaction. There is only one-way communication and there is no way to determine whether the student has grasped the subject/concept or not. The teacher is engaging in a monologue and is not interacting with the students. This is the major reason why online learning can never beat classroom learning where interaction is the key. If a student gets stuck at someplace, there is no mechanism for the student to voice his concern and clear their doubts. Sure students can raise their doubts in the comments section for the teacher to address some time afterward, but the resolution is not immediate. Teachers also need to understand that no student is alike. To impart knowledge uniquely to students of different calibers is something that pre-recorded online lessons cannot deliver. Amid the lockdown, the pressure on teachers and educators has increased manifolds. Everyone is resorting to the internet to impart learning to students. For this very reason, teachers are hosting close to 500-1000 students at one time. Of course, the teacher to student ratio goes for a toss here and there is no focus on any one student.
We did an exhaustive survey with a pool of students pursuing Secondary and High Secondary studies which revealed that these practices are not going to help the students. Online classes conducted this way are not helping students when they get stuck at one point, are unable to move further, and have their chain of thought disrupted. A few of the students also mentioned that these classes start to appear ‘boring’ after a point due to the monologue of the teacher.
Q. Why do you think that hosting online classes is not a sustainable solution?
Online classes can become a sustainable solution even after the lockdown is lifted; only if it’s potential is utilized in the correct manner. If teachers focus on making a live online class interactive and fun, there is nothing stopping online classes. Platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Google Classrooms can enable this very easily. You can have a limited number of students in a class and focus on teaching which lets the students be more receptive, vocal, and reciprocal. What’s more? Most of these platforms are free! The facility of an online class needs to be twisted and tweaked to make the best of it, in order for the students to be benefitted from it. Think of it from a corporate web-conferencing mode, where the inclusion of every member is very important. We at SmartPrep are trying to achieve the same, ‘high level of inclusion which leads to a high level of interaction and hence better learning’.
Q. How are you teaching your students amidst the lockdown at SmartPrep Academy?
At SmartPrep Academy, we are taking the help of technology but with a smarter route and a sustainable way. We decided on having small groups of no more than 30 students for one lecture which last an hour and a half. The first few minutes are spent discussing the previous day’s homework and solving doubts after which a 40-minute lecture on a fresh topic starts. The lecture ends with another few minutes spent assigning homework to be shared and discussed the next day. The entire lecture including the homework discussion is live, so any student can interject to ask a doubt.
Q. Why are you not using apps that let you take an online class and then a test?
We first need to understand and accept the fact that we don’t have the best of both worlds right now in one app/solution. There exists no app which is functional in nature and has great qualities. When one can easily host a virtual classroom using apps like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Zoho, and Google Classrooms, for practically zero amount, why should I pay for any other platform? When it comes to posting a video to be streamed later, I prefer doing it on YouTube which also happens to be a free service with appropriate settings. The only thing I needed was a way to conduct tests online.
That’s why I have only been using testing platforms like MegaExams. I’ve noticed that MegaExams by far has the best Question Bank and has an edge over other testing platforms. It is a smart, quick, and efficient online exam software. So much so, I was able to create assignments for the entire year within 20 days. MegaExams has been just the right tool, especially during lockdown to conduct tests with immediate results, impeccable result analysis, and many other services.
Kumar Atul is an IIT-Roorkee and NUS alumnus and the founder of SmartPrep Academy in Bokaro. Atul has 8+ years of experience teaching chemistry and is an ardent supporter of classroom-based learning. He has been using MegaExams to test his students online amid this lockdown.