Online Education: Analysis from Personal Experience
UMCDSRC, SAF Scholar 2018-22
I am a SAF scholar currently with Madanjeet Centre for Development Studies and Regional Cooperation, National College, Kathmandu University. With the outspread fear of coronavirus disease early on in March 2020, Kathmandu University shut itself down until further notice. I was in my 4th semester of Bachelor’s in Development Studies, and the academic year ahead felt to have become a huge fog of uncertainties. However, the university took alternative measures on time, by switching to virtual classes within a week of all academic institutions shutting down. Whilst many of my friends and colleagues pursuing their undergraduate from other universities were facing a lapse of time with the pandemic, this swift action taken by my University allowed me to continue my studies further without any delay. Therefore, from time efficient to ease in access, it has been a huge privilege to attain and continue education smoothly, regardless of barriers introduced by the pandemic conditions.
As an interactive research and field intensive course, the major saddening flip side however, has been having to compromise with practical learning. Every semester we used to visit various communities, interact and extract information first-hand, apply the learned theories and experience them unfold in real life. With obvious reasons, online mode of learning has restricted us to explore and understand theoretical knowledge practically. However, in order to accommodate this, the faculty introduced comprehensive case study analysis, online group discussions, and guest lectures from individuals of diverse fields who would have not been able to join and discuss with us had it not been online (due to geographical and time barriers).
It is not the same as being surrounded with friends in-person, reaching out to communities and learning from them real time, but still, these kinds of measures introduced online have been able to give a generic taste of what it would have been otherwise. The learning process was persistent to remain the same, and through online breakout rooms, welcoming experienced individuals, and holding virtual discussions, it has allowed one to grasp the learnings easily.
The online classes follow a strict morning routine starting from 6:45 a.m, just like it would be during regular times- which has been able to push start the day fresh and early. This has also allowed the students to set ahead for a productive day despite being indoors. We are presented with reflective keynotes that provide things to ponder, search and learn more at the end of most classes. And with more time in-hand during lockdown, it has become an engaging factor to push oneself further. Having to sit at one place, staring at the little rectangle screen in-front, for hours was definitely something new, and at times increasing fatigue, but with class activities, visual resource dissemination, and video-on feature, the process has been successful in being more insightful, and comfortable. Many friends who moved to the valley just for sake of education, are now able to attain them right at the comfort of their home. This has also helped to realize the diversity we have had right in our classrooms, with people from different parts of Nepal sharing their personalized experiences ongoing at the very moment. There has also been more participation from the class, than in a regular setting- with distant online learning providing a deeper confidence and ease of expression to many students. This has ultimately led the faculties to know their students more, communicate with them, and tap on key potentials one would usually be timid to present.
One of the major drawbacks has been not being able to meet friends physically. I miss this very much. Other SAF scholars from other countries are stuck and will only be coming after the easing of restrictions and after they take their vaccines. I hope this happens soon.
Further on, as the backbone of online learning, the internet connection issue is still problematic especially due to massive consumption at once- with urban centric population using them throughout the day regularly. By using makeshift strategies of mobile data, and having the full lecture recorded and saved, to refer back in Google Drive, the learning process has seemed to move forward at all times. Also, with access to online libraries like Jstor and Research4life, we have been able to learn newer sources of resource-based learning. Our classes take place via Google Meet, wherein other platforms like Google Classroom and Google Drive help to track assignment deadlines, give access to reading materials, feedback, and scores immediately. This way, the online mode of learning has been able to provide a bird-eye view of the whole semester, course and the overall progress for both professors and students.
Currently, as I am about to complete my third semester online, the experiences garnered for the past one and half year has allowed me to reflect, assess and analyse these experiences holistically. Early on, the negative barriers definitely brought hesitation, frustration and lack of motivation. During the first semester, it definitely took a longer time to figure out, adapt and process the whole digital medium of education. But now, looking back at the journey of online education, this swift switch to virtual medium, although not the best solution, has provided opportunities to get in-hand education anytime, anywhere in a comprehensive manner.
UMCDSRC, SAF Scholar (Batch 2018-22)