The Coronavirus pandemic is imposing global experimentation with remote teaching.
FREMONT, CA: Tectonic shifts in society and business happen when unexpected events force widespread experimentation around a new idea. Similarly, the pandemic is pushing the educational sector to open up to remote teaching. There are various indicators that this crisis is going to transform many aspects of life. Education has the potential to be one of them if remote teaching proves to be a success.
A better IT structure to support online education
It is vital to address hardware and software issues before starting remote learning. There is no doubt that digital technologies can be deployed at scale, but it is also known that a lot more needs to be done. On the hardware front, bandwidth capacity and digital inequalities need addressing. The F2F setting levels have many differences because students in the same class get the same delivery. Online education, however, amplifies the digital divide. Affluent students have the latest laptops, better bandwidths, stable wifi connections, and more sophisticated audio-visual gadgets. Software for conference calls can also be deemed a good start, but it can’t handle some key functionalities like accommodating large class sizes while also providing a personalized experience.
Besides, online courses need educational support on the ground: Instructional designers, trainers, and coaches to ensure student learning and course completion. The digital divide also prevails among universities, which will become prominent in the current experiment. The best private universities have better IT infrastructure and supporting staff ratio for each faculty compared to budget-starved public universities.
Faculty and students acceptance for online education
All the faculty members are not comfortable with virtual classrooms. A digital divide among those who have not used even the necessary audio-visual equipment, relying on blackboards and flipcharts, prevails. Younger faculty who are well aware of and adept in newer technology as students across the nation are learning that many instructors are not trained to design multimedia presentations, with elaborate graphics. Colleges and universities need to utilize this moment to assess what training is required in order to provide a smooth experience.
Students also face several problems with online courses. Committing to follow the university calendar compels them to finish a course, instead of procrastinating about it forever. And in online classes, they can feel as they don’t belong to a peer group or a college cohort, which in real life instills a sense of competition, motivating all to excel.