The Rise in Online Learning due to the Covid-19 Pandemic
Due to the coronavirus outbreak the world has moved to using video conferencing platforms to interact and engage with people from all over the world. There are two major groups of people that use these applications the most; one is employees working from home and second is students. Education is an essential and integral part of life and cannot be halted. Due to the closure of schools, colleges and universities, classroom learning has moved to online learning which is become the “new normal.”
The three most popular online learning platforms are: Zoom, Google Classroom and Blackboard. I use Zoom quite often to attend my online lectures at Seneca College, and I must say it has some great helpful features that make learning fun! Firstly, you can join from anywhere on any device. It has amazing video and audio quality and can support up to 1000 video participants. Some of its other core features are:
· In-meeting chat- you can send messages privately to an individual or to the group within a meeting
· You can record all your meetings for future reference.
· It allows screen sharing, its an easy way for students and professors to share their work.
· Breakout Rooms- It allows you to split your class in individual groups so participants can have their own conversation.
· It also has some cool features like: Virtual backgrounds which allows you to display an image or video as your background, raise your hand to notify the host you want to say something- just like normal class!, use of emojis in chat , waiting room which lets you control when participants join a meeting and last but not the least there is remote support which allows you to control another participants screen.
Source: Business Insider
From the chart above it can be seen how the usage of Zoom has skyrocketed from 10M in December 2019 to 300M as of April 2021. This is a mind-blowing growth, but not surprising as the world has transitioned to working remotely.
Educational institutes and students were not prepared for this change but have come to adapting it fairly well. In my opinion, the greatest benefit has been that students have not had to drop school, their learning continued through online classes. Classes can be attended from any location of your choice. Hence international students did not have to wait for their colleges to open for them to start learning saving their time. Additionally, online classes can be personalized to suit needs of students different learning styles. Also, online lectures can be recorded which allows students to view class again incase they want to clarify some of their doubts.
With this, there are also some challenges like internet connectivity issues, especially in smaller cities and towns which can get frustrating to cope with and other technological issues also faced by teachers. Some students feel a sense of isolation as there is no physical interaction and some students fear talking during an online setup. The screen time has increased which affects health of students. Some develop a bad posture, or their eyesight number increases due to staying hunched in front of a screen. It is also difficult to focus on screen for longer periods of time, one can also easily get distracted by social media or other sites. Lastly, international students are finding it very difficult to cope with the time zone differences as some classes get scheduled late in the night which hinders their concentration and disturbs sleep schedule.
I suggest teachers to keep their online classes engaging, interactive and crisp to help students stay focused in class. Online classes via video conferencing tools are definitely the best solution to continue using for education during this pandemic. It is better than other alternatives like professors just sending instructions across mail for assignments and exams to be done or students only viewing recorded lectures in the name of class. Online classes are very much required as there are already restrictions to in-person learning. It is not the most fun and best way to learn, but at least gives students and teachers a chance to get to know each other, interact face to face live, express their thoughts, opinions, and concerns for better learning outcomes. It keeps students motivated to continue learning and for teachers to keep teaching!
Post the pandemic I see a major decrease in online learning. As fast as it rose, it will go down at the same pace. This is because classroom learning can never be replaced, and educational institutes have no reason to be shut post the pandemic. They are waiting for restrictions to lift, as due to pandemic uncertainties they have faced losses in number of admissions, especially international. Once there is a decrease in online learning the usage of video conferencing applications will also automatically reduce as people are waiting to get out of their homes and not be stuck in one place anymore for getting all their work done. Everyone wants their pre-pandemic life back where there are no masks to be worn, no social distancing rules to be followed and no restrictions to go on a holiday or to meet your dear ones!