THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the Covid-19 crisis leaving the reopening of educational institutions in a limbo, schools in the state are all set to adopt the virtual classroom mode from June 1. Some of the private-run unaided schools had shifted to online mode weeks ago for higher classes. Despite the hype surrounding the transition from textbooks and notebooks to tablets and smartphones, educators point out that the online mode is just a stopgap arrangement and can never be a substitute for the traditional classroom.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has reiterated the state’s resolve to introduce online instruction from Class I to the higher secondary level from the very day the schools are scheduled to reopen. The State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT), Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE), Samagra Shikha Kerala (SSK) and the State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET) are working round-the-clock to meet the deadline.
J Prasad, director, SCERT, said teachers have been shortlisted and video recording of virtual classes is under way. “Since multimedia educational material for higher classes is already available on the Samagra portal, converting the classes into audio-video format for such students will be easier. But we are working hard to make the virtual classrooms as interesting as possible for all classes and ensure its successful rollout by June 1,” he said.
The classes of 3o-minute duration will be given time slots and telecast on the KITE-Victers channel from June 1. The detailed programme schedule of virtual classes will be published next week. Videos of the classes will also be uploaded on the KITE website and will also be available on YouTube. However, the only drawback will be the lack of interactive element between students and teachers, officials concede.
“Follow-up of these online lessons can be carried out by teachers of the respective schools. The teachers can ensure through social media groups that the students are following the classes and provide assignments accordingly. The students will have the option of clarifying doubts regarding the virtual classes with their respective class teachers,” said K Anvar Sadath, executive director, KITE.
However, it is pointed out that a section of students from underprivileged sections will still be left out of such classes. According to a General Education Department official, arrangements will be made for such students to access the virtual classes in their respective schools where hi-tech lab facilities have been made available. Since the number of students who do not have access to virtual classes is low, they can be easily accommodated in the hi-tech labs in schools while ensuring social distancing norms.
“Online classes should never be seen as a substitute for the traditional classroom. This is only a stopgap arrangement during a crisis period to ensure that students do not lose touch with studies. Once normal functioning of schools resumes, these classes are expected to be covered in the traditional classroom as well,” said Prasad.
In many private unaided schools, online instruction began as early as mid-April for Classes X and XII. Unlike the state’s virtual classroom, this is broadcast through various media. Unaided schools are utilising videoconferencing apps such as Zoom for online instruction. The advantage of such apps is the interactive element and the option to improvise the classes is based on feedback from the students.“Students seem to have easily adapted themselves to the new mode.
However, connectivity remains an issue especially in semi-urban and rural areas. In some cases, we had to opt for pre-recorded classes,” said the principal of a prominent ICSE-affiliated school in the state capital. Besides, conducting classes in online mode for lower classes is a major challenge. “The attention span of children in lower classes is very short. Hence, a virtual classroom in its true sense may not be feasible in their case. Instead, teachers prepare short videos and provide them a number of activities that can be done throughout the day,” the principal said.
The state’s school education system is set to witness a paradigm shift, albeit a stopgap one, with virtual classrooms taking centre stage when classes are scheduled to resume on June 1. Express takes a hard look at the new age strategy to ensure students don’t lose touch with studies even as social distancing is not compromised.
‘Develop own online platforms’
The Council of CBSE Schools, Kerala, an association of 760 schools affiliated to the national board, has opposed the adoption of online learning platforms that put an extra financial strain on parents especially in the time of a crisis. “Individual schools should adopt their own system of online education befitting their requirements and teaching methodology, rather than approaching a common platform outside the school system,” the association advised its member schools. The association has recommended students to follow online instruction modes devised by Union HRD Department and the NCERT.
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