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Covid19 – Online classes for kids – Is it effective?

I was talking to one of my relative who is in Tier 3 city about Covid19 situation and discussion came to college & studies for their son. They informed me that their son is attending online classes. When i asked them how is he doing it, i understood he is attending the classes over “Mobile“. I started to think how effective 3 to 4 hours of online class over a mobile phone would be.

Representational Image | Wikimedia Commons

I personally have problems to go through online content (any content for that matter) on smaller screen and would prefer a large screen to expand and see the content clearly. Thinking more about this made me realize what these kids are going through.

As I started doing some research on this. I stumbled upon 2 reports from Unicef & UNESCO published on 14th & 21st April 2020 respectively. As per Unicef, More than 1.5 billion children and young people have been affected by school closures worldwide.

Millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unicef Report – 14th April 2020

Half of the total number of learners – some 826 million students – kept out of the classroom by the COVID-19 pandemic, do not have access to a household computer, 43% (706 million) have no internet at home & about 56 million learners live in locations not served by mobile networks

UNESCO Report – 21st April 2020

As i dug in more, I realized that both the persona’s of Students & Teachers are facing challenges in this method of study.

For Students:

  • Those who are in cities with good internet connection have been able to attend classes where as those who went to their native villages are not able to attend.
  • Don’t have the kind of devices, laptops, smartphones… or money to keep the Internet connection going.
  • Spending more time on virtual platforms can leave children vulnerable to online sexual exploitation and grooming.
  • May expose children to potentially harmful and violent content as well as greater risk of cyberbullying.

For Teachers:

  • Need training to deliver distance and online education effectively, but such support is particularly scarce in low-income areas.
  • No reliable network to deliver 40 – 60 min video / online class
  • No clear instructions on how different apps need to be used for different purposes (PPT, Online class, video recording..etc)
  • Older teachers (50+) have challenge to adopt to the new technology

Though there is no immediate & permanent fix for this issue, we can look at few of the options to mitigate the risk

  • Parents to make sure that devices students are using have the latest software updates & antivirus installed
  • Bolster core child protection services & make it available throughout the pandemic.
  • Provide online learning to only those classes / students who need it.
  • Make lessons available on DTH platform & All India Radio.
  • Provide internet connectivity to improve access for disadvantaged children in low-income households.

Overall i feel, now is a good time to do a feedback check with the students & teachers to see the effectiveness of this initiative, take corrective action before proceeding. We should make sure educational institutions does not use this opportunity to push ahead with academic calendar completion.

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