By Mehwish Azam
ISLAMABAD, Sep 06 (APP):Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the normal lives of people have not been the same and masses are still coping with the fact that the physical presence in daily affairs has to be as minimum as possible.
However, this trend has affected the students’ lives in its own unique way as online or virtual learning is becoming the new ‘Normal’. Almost all educational institutes of the country have been providing virtual lectures and classes for their students during this time period to avoid the time-lapse between the semesters. Although this solution has helped a great deal to save the educational year as a whole, yet it has brought some of its own challenges along. Students as well as teachers are faced with many obstacles on the road to learn virtually.
The biggest concern for students is internet connectivity. Students from metropolitan cities enjoyed good internet connectivity, but those living in rural and remote parts of the country faced immense problems while going virtual. Online connecting sites such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and LMS consume large amounts of data, require faster internet speed and advanced versions of phones or computers.
Besides, power outages in certain areas are also an obstacle for students to be able to come online for the lessons on time. Another valid concern was for parents who cannot afford separate phones or laptops for all the siblings attending the classes at the same time.
Talking to APP, Mehjabeen Zia, a housewife said that in the beginning of the lock down it was worrisome because children were wasting their time at home but after the inception of online classes it had become easier for us to make them follow the study routine although virtual learning that was not as effective as traditional one.
She added, “Most of the time I have to make sure that children are attentive during the lecture as the teacher cannot pay attention to a class of 60 students through a video call. It’s not only the teacher’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy of the method as it is new to all of us”, she said.
Sobia Kanwal, a mother and banker who has been working from home said that getting kids ready for online classes and making sure they were attending thoroughly was a whole other level of struggle. She went on to say that making kids take a lecture from a screen was difficult as compared to sending them off to school while I myself work along with managing the household.
Kiran Fareed, a chemistry teacher from Army Public School (APS) Karachi told APP that managing a class of 50 students through a computer screen became a challenge for teachers.
“Most of the time attendance of students is low because of parents’ negligence or unavailability of the internet. Besides, online classes from home need a proper learning environment to stay focused on the lecture. However, students belonging to the joint family system or living in small houses for large families faced difficulties regarding attentiveness and concentration. We cannot observe every student through the chat window if they are attentive or not which makes it harder to convey the lecture to the fullest”, she added.
She said although it has become imperative during these times to ensure continuity of studies it has also put a burden on academicians professionally. “We have to take classes, attendance, tests and assignments virtually and then we upload them on the school’s system for the records which usually consume a lot of time”, she added.
Along with technical difficulties and lack of communication, online classes were also affecting student’s mental and physical health. Mostly children spend time on mobile and laptops as their screen-time has increased 80% more than usual. This puts strain not only on eyes but also affects cognitive abilities and causes attention deficit among youngsters.
According to a study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports (2018), young people who spend seven hours or more a day on screens are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety as those who use screens for an hour a day.
Dr. Anwaar Ahmad Gul, an eye Specialist practicing in Islamabad, said that too much screen time is rather harmful for children aged under 15 and causes not only physical problems but affects mental and behavioral health of kids as well. “Long-term effects of screen addiction may include speech delay, cognitive impairment and difficulty with problem-solving and creative thinking, depression and anxiety”, he explained.
Dr Gul said although use of these gadgets by children has become inevitable but it puts heavy responsibility over parent’s shoulders. They should set a time table for screen time and keep observing them to prevent excessive usage of technology.
While most of the businesses are now partially or fully opened, educational institutions in most of the countries are still waiting for the ‘green signal’ from their governments to resume routine activities. Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood said in a media talk on Friday the final decision on the reopening of schools will be taken in a meeting of the provincial education ministers on September 7. He also hinted at the ‘likelihood’ of opening educational institutes from September 15 in a phased manner.