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Adopting the right online tools for sustainable education

Author

Prasanth Parameswaran

Date

July 31, 2020

An interview with Dr. Gopakumar, Director – Unique Learning Centre

Teachers and students are making the best of online classes and online education tools in general in the era of coronavirus. Sure, this is an unprecedented event in the history of humankind, which demanded extraordinary measures. The sporadic jump to shifting education online seemed hasty in the beginning. But the teachers and parents knew that this was the safest bet given the times we are living in.

Classes shifted online. Platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams began trending amongst educators. Homework, assignments, and even exams have taken the online route. All strata of education have moved online- be it at the school level, for college students, or even for those preparing for higher/entrance exams. 

The transition has been especially integral and challenging for teachers. It has been cumbersome for teachers who believed more strongly in classroom teaching than online mediums. Not to mention the problems with dealing with almost an armory of technological tools. 

Dr Gopakumar is one such teacher. He runs  Unique Learning Centre, a successful coaching institute in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram.

An ardent supporter of classroom-based teaching, he had to shift his coaching classes online almost overnight. After teaching online for weeks, he believes that classroom teaching is irreplaceable and will return in all its glory. Dr. Gopakumar also opines that online education tools may become a part of teaching in the post-COVID era. Excerpts are from a conversation.

How was the move to online education? Were there any apprehensions or obstacles during the transition?

I have to say that the move was not smooth. As a teacher, I believe that old school education in a classroom with a board cannot be replaced by anything else. Just like face-to-face communication is better any day than a video call, online lectures cannot match classroom teaching.

But some things have to be done. The coronavirus pandemic caught us off guard and ensuring the safety of students was more important. Nevertheless, at Unique Learning Centre, we prioritize our students’ academic year and want to make sure that no student misses out on their studies. I personally believe that learning must never stop.

So I decided to shift my classes online against all odds.

My initial feelings were that of fear- fear of not doing justice to my students; apprehension- I was concerned that online classes would become boring for the students. However, like all clouds have a silver lining, I think I settled pretty well with shifting base online, as was the need of the hour. 

What tools are you using for online education?

The first thing was conducting classes, so we used the popular tool Zoom. I could easily host a live class with a couple of students. Zoom was a great option for live classes. However, I am logically against recording the same live lecture and making it available for students’ revision.  I make sure to record a fresh video structurally covering all points on a topic which is then uploaded on both YouTube and MegaExams’ website. I use MegaExams to host my videos where my students can easily log in and go through the video for the topic they are looking for. The recorded videos are more like an explainer on the topic encapsulating the subject at hand in detail.

While the live sessions are best fit for addressing doubts and explaining complex topics, the recorded videos help students in their self-study after lectures. This enables two-way communication; students can interrupt me and clear their doubts, and I can also gather if the student has understood the subject or not. 

Furthermore, I know there are countless apps and websites for online classes, exams, and the likes. But YouTube is the best platform for sharing videos. I prefer uploading videos for a topic on YouTube since it is easy to access for students, free of cost, and has a great reach.

But I wanted something more serious for my students who are passionate about learning. That is why I chose MegaExams to host my recorded lectures for my students. It is a super-secure platform that ensures that my students get exclusive access to my video lectures and benefit from it.

For tests and exams, I have been using MegaExams online exam software for more than three years now, which allows me to make custom exams for my students that they can attempt online. MegaExams has been my partner in teaching for three years and the results have shown the awesomeness of the platform.

In fact, they have lakhs of pre-loaded question papers for every subject. So I choose one and let the software do its magic. I automatically get the results of the exams and a detailed analysis of each student’s result.

Online exams are pretty smart and something which has made my life in the era of online education simple.

After teaching via both online and offline methods, which one do you prefer?

I’ll choose classroom teaching over the online education in a heartbeat! The reason for it is straightforward. Classroom teaching does not give only theoretical knowledge to students. It helps in their overall development as social and critically-thinking human beings. No one can deny that the immersive and collaborative learning that takes place in a classroom cannot be replaced via online tools.

Even parents believe that once the coronavirus pandemic is over, shifting base to school-based classroom learning will be the best bet for their children’s future. 

There is a reason why offline education has been around for so many years. Our school-going children are accustomed to class-based learning with a teacher taking lessons being physically present in the classroom. Suddenly changing the status quo has been troublesome, but we are sure to bounce back!

There are no two ways about it- teacher-to-student interaction is what makes learning fun. Delivering a lecture sitting behind a screen is not education. While it is the need of the hour, it is not a permanent solution.

What is your take on education in the post-COVID world?

It should be clear that once the pandemic is over, students will be back to schools, colleges, and coaching centres. Online education seems possible right now, but it is not sustainable on its own. However, blending online tools with classroom teaching makes a harmonious combination for uninterrupted learning.

However, the tools that online education has put to our disposal in these months are remarkable. I think moving forward; the right approach to blending online and offline education seamlessly to benefit the students. The key takeaways from this period will help us re-image education. As an individual teacher, I will keep on uploading recorded lectures on MegaExams and YouTube to help students in their self-study after the class. Online exams have become a rage and they are here to stay for a long time. They can be used for many purposes apart from conducting exams. Students can themselves take practice tests using online exam software. Similarly, we can move many things online which will be more convenient and pragmatic. This could include communication with parents and students.

For instance, I never used live class tools before in my life. But the current scenario forced me to do so; this made me discover the benefits of an online class and recorded videos. So, I will definitely shift my classes back to the offline medium; I will choose to retain MegaExams as the tool for both hosting recorded videos for students’ revision and conducting online exams. I am saving on a lot of money in data entry work and offline exams, it is easy to use and gives accurate results.

Many such small things will be tweaked once we go back to classroom teaching. But yes, classroom learning will resume; it is just a matter of time when they do so. Sure, going back after all these months will be a little tricky, but we need to improvise our ways of teaching better and make the transition smooth. The best way to do it is to adopt the right online education tools and merge them with conventional learning tools to make education holistic and feasible.