NEW DELHI: While the nationwide lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has brought life to a temporary halt in the second most populated nation in the world, It's the education sector which has evidently taken an enormous breakthrough in terms of online education.
As some believe that online education continues to be a faraway proposition given the Indian ecology, many others feel that one amongst the most important advantages from the lockdown is going to be the digital revolution in the education sector.
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Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar Mamidala belongs to the second category, who sees a possible partnership between the traditional learning methods and also the "learning from anywhere, anytime" concept.
Mamidala claimed that the way India imparts education in the higher educational institutes will get reshaped post the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While the digital platforms were widely available even before the COVID-19 outbreak, educational institutes were too slow in adopting them. But during the lockdown period, most higher educational institutes have swiftly shifted to the online mode of instruction, abandoning the age-old classroom teaching," Mamidala said.
He seemed optimistic about the future of e-learning in education when he claimed that the swift adoption of online classes by the higher educational institutes like JNU will continue even after the lockdown period.
"This may be a very positive outcome of the lockdown and is expected to continue post-COVID-19. this is often primarily due to our negative attitude towards using online platforms for teaching has taken a back seat. Additionally, this sudden discovery of the latest ways of imparting education is sure to bring more innovation and digitisation," he added.
When asked of the digital divide, which many claims would be a barrier, Mamidala claimed that the arguments are addressed by those that are scared of positive changes in the society.
"The argument that this new approach will cause more digital divide is unfounded. this is often an argument suggests by those that are scared of a positive change within the society," he said.
Backing his claims on data availability, Mamidala said that nearly every student in universities or colleges has access to smartphones, which are needed for access to advanced e-learning modules.
"In India, we've more than 500 million smartphone users and the numbers are growing rapidly. In Indian higher educational institutes, we've got 34 million students. Therefore, it's safe to assume that each student in our universities and colleges owns a smartphone or has access to a smartphone," Mamidala said.
"Even if the smartphone has only a 2G network connection, it's still possible to download videos, audio files, documents and participate in live audio meetings. Therefore, connecting with the scholars who are from remote areas with weak network connectivity won't be a challenge," he added.
Mamidala himself has been working extensively for strengthening the online learning infrastructure in his university, organising several webinars and other information video conferences for the teachers to adapt to the most recent method of imparting knowledge.
According to him, in countries like India, online learning will emerge as a game-changer in providing greater access to high-quality education to students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
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"The COVID-19 induced lockdown will help us complement traditional learning with the "learning from anywhere, anytime" concept. in a country like India, this may have a big impact in providing greater access to high-quality education to students from different socio-economic backgrounds," he said.