E-learning and digital divide in the Pandemic

There are specific challenges that are responsible for the possible failure of e-learning in this region, as a critical digital divide is apparent in front of us
E-learning and digital divide in the Pandemic
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Even though it is not accessible to allstudents alike, e-Classes in the ongoing Pandemic is of vital importance. Whilephysical distance is considered as an only practical deterrent against thespread of coronavirus, the virtual instruction can compensate for the studiesand prove to be an alternative to schooling for the crisis-time. Thesocial-media-connectivity and sophisticated e-applications can make virtuallearning an effective way of having an uninterrupted teaching-learning process.However, the inconsiderate practice of e-learning has only revealed the digitaldivide in our society.

The global outbreak of the coronavirus inearlier months of 2020 triggered many debates about the functioning of theworld. The World Health Organisation declared that the globe was under aPandemic. Policy world, too, was stunned to see the new challenges emergingfrom all directions. The novel enemy came with transcendent expeditiousness andunpreparedness for a new war against an alien enemy took a bit for the leadersto figure-out the response.

Primarily, the Pandemic paralysed wheels ofgovernance and delivery of services also got affected. This kind of handicapwas not witnessed even in the World Wars. The human consequences and sufferingbecame much higher as compared to many other crises in contemporary history.The economic loss, the human cost that includes physical and mental well-beingis escalating in the world that is increasingly anxious and unhappy.

The teaching and learning process alsoemerged as a sector that also received a considerable setback, perhaps onlyafter the health care system. To respond to this, many governments world-widetemporarily closed educational institutions as an attempt to deter the spreadof the COVIS-19. The world-wide closure has impacted 91% of the world's studentpopulation. Thus, UNESCO demands mitigation, especially for those who arevulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The relief should includefacilitation and continuity of education for all through home-schooling.

The coronavirus has changed many things,including how millions around the world will receive education. The swiftrisk-control policies encouraged millions of students into temporaryremote-learning. As they say, we have to learn from the countries affected bythe spread of the virus earlier. The home-schooling too emerged in thosecountries like China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. And now it is being quitfruitfully being replicated all over the world. Therefore, it is safe to saythat abrupt unleashing of events caused inconvenience but also prompted forinnovation in the process of teaching-learning. Predicting for future ispremature, but it seems that the learning innovation and digitisation will havea lasting impact on the education system globally.

Against this backdrop, The JK governmentalso replicated it and implemented the closure. The timely decision makesenormous sense to prevent the institutions from becoming the hot-spots of thevirus as such institutions are open spaces that can prove suitable for thecommunication of coronavirus and facilitate its spread through the humanbodies, far and wide. Consequently, concerned departments are issuing ordersfor conducting the digital classes on applications like Zoom and so on. Workingwith the government department has made me aware that much right decisions arefar away from reaching their objectives due to the lack of bottom-to-topinputs.

Therefore, it is essential to raise somepoints that can make the implementation of this decision productive. There arespecific challenges that are responsible for the possible failure of e-learningin this region, as a critical digital divide is apparent in front of us.Fundamentally to run an entire education system online requires a fastconnectable internet service that is not available in this region. Deprivationand inaccessibility are the significant issues that both the communities ofstudents and teachers are facing.

In big cities, we have the freedom tovisualise that the entire world is equipped with smartphones and gadgets, butthat is not the reality. In an inadequate network coverage, an instructor isleft without a tool, and no party can download materials like e-books,educational videos or share PPTs, and so on. The children born to privilegedstrata and educated parents have many ways to compensate, but students oflower-income and marginal backgrounds are those who will be left behind, thuslocalising the digital divide.

The female students are particularly facingthe problem of having access to the gadgets and then open a virtual window tostrangers. This case has two aspects; predominantly possibility of molestationthat is the reality of the virtual world and the stigma attached to it, andobviously the inaccessibility to the resources. Nevertheless, the operationencourages screen-shot marathon of pictures all over the social network groups.That to my understanding is not mission accomplished, but is indicative of theabsence of multiple voices in the system. Instead, the plan has to be carriedout with coordinated, democratic and inclusive decision making andimplementation.

One more challenge that already exists butis responsible for inadequate response in the present situation too. If wesample students of the class 11th and 12th in this, one understands that thestudents are reinforced to read from the notes made by someone sold by someothers. The habit of oration from ready-made material (sometimesunauthenticated) is preventing students from reading the text, thinking,comprehension, creativity and self-reflection, which at least is a need insocial science. The absence of rich libraries, access to the internet, basictraining of language and exposure to new technology and ways of learning in theremote educational institutions have already made a student align to moderntechniques of the teaching-learning process. The same habit is disallows studentsin taking all the trouble to be in a virtual class.

The objective of the whole exercise is tomake education more accessible to the students of disadvantaged and marginalbackgrounds by facilitating continuous education through virtual classes. Thesuperficial practice is far from bearing any fruit, and learning outcomes are adistant dream, and only thing achievable is enhanced digital divide.Additionally, the protection of the practitioner is of utmost importance, andthe government apparatus itself states that applications like Zoom compromisesecurity and privacy that made many teachers apprehensive. In such pretext, theadministration should issue advisory in consultation with the technocrats andenhance help to its untrained personals.

The author is a Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She also teaches Political Science and specialises in International Studies.

Greater Kashmir