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MITRAS WEEKLY ESSAY CHALLENGE

June 12 to June 18, 2017

 
Write an essay on the following topic in not more than 1000-1200 words:
 

Irrelevance of the Classroom

  • Ashish

    IRRELEVANCE OF THE CLASSROOM
    “The world is the true classroom, the most rewarding type of learning is through experience, seeing something with our own eyes”

    Classroom is a learning space, a room in which education is imparted by a teacher to a group of students. Education is the process of facilitate learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, belief and habits. It involves a process of learning where a package of knowledge is transferred to learners. This process of learning has evolved over the ages, from Gurukuls of ancient times to the establishment of the global universities and mushrooming of public schools, the process of learning has expanded both in terms of range and diversity.
    The central and surviving theme of all the education schemes is a common model i.e. “Classroom based Education” where education is imparted by a teacher to a group of students. The survival of this model throughout ages, withstanding the heat of time, signifies its importance. The relevance of this model was proved on the assumption that the teacher is the only source of knowledge, one who makes the un-understandable books understandable and beyond whom there is no source of knowledge. But with the dawn of 21st century the advent of internet and its rapid expansion which not only has diversified knowledge but also includes many hitherto excluded sources, has casted a serious doubt about the survivability of classroom model of education.
    A classroom-based learning experience means the class schedule is predetermined and not subject to change. Students must shape their personal schedules around classes instead of the other way around. With classroom learning, students must physically attend the courses to get credit for attendance. Also, the present classrooms are microcosm of the larger society and includes student from different strata of society and thus have varying intellect and capacities. Traditional learning environment may benefit younger students who are attending college for the first time. Younger students may need more guidance and more direct contact with professors and academic advisors. Traditional classes may also be a better fit for students with limited resources and limited computer access. But on the broader scale, this one size fits all approach as well as the singularity of knowledge, on whose premises classroom model evolved is continuously losing its ground.
    Learning makes a person capable enough to handle the diverse challenges of life, and the best learning alternative that today’s era has provided us is internet learning or online learning. Online learning has over- shadowed the cons of classroom learning be it the necessity to be present physically or the static schedule. Internet based education’s popularity can be understood in terms of the vast advantage over the traditional classroom based education. Internet expands the source of knowledge from singularity of classroom to the plurality of the internet resources. The lectures and other source of knowledge are not time bound and can be repeatedly accessed unlike classroom that offers a single window of opportunity, are non repetitive and mostly monologue. Collaboration of students, their active participation and prompt answers by peer groups to clear doubts further enhances the utility of internet based education. Ubiquitous nature of internet, easy availability of internet accessibility devices, huge availability of digital content and its rapid proliferation and cloud services adds on the transformative impact of the internet on the education. Thus learning becomes an altogether different experience. With online education, one can take any program or course offered by some of the most prestigious universities from all around the world without even travelling away from one’s place. Online education facilitates self- paced learning. A self-paced system enables to make progress with rhythm that suits the most. The fact that online programs are cheaper when compared to the ones held in a traditional campus setting is enough to convince one to consider them.
    Various studies have shown that the internet based education has far greater efficacy than the traditional classroom model. Students learning level have significantly improved and simultaneously it has reduced their dropouts and failure. Various experiments like “ Hole in the wall” where a computer was provided to slum children and helped to rapidly transform their learning level, or the SOLE i.e. Self Organised Learning Experience where student collaborate to learn on internet without the help of teacher, have time and again proved how worthy the internet based model is.
    The “one size fits all” is becoming redundant in the present world with diversity rather than uniformity becoming the mantra. Classroom model is losing its sheen and utility in the same context. Internet based education is emerging as a challenge to established model of classroom education. From the elementary level to the higher education internet based education is expanding its roots. At primary level Flipped classes where teaching is shifted to home through pre recorded lectures and homework becomes a classwork is gaining currency. At middle level online courses, virtual labs and various online test series not only transfer the knowledge but also expands the competition. At higher education level collaborative platforms have changed the nature of the way students used to study.
    eLearning, being the latest wave of education, is already having a fair show despite posing challenges for both instructors and students. While instructors need to put in intensive work and time to design the instruction, students need to equip themselves with technical proficiency to decode the course material. There are various problems faced by students in eLearning classes and which need to be solved through proper initiatives for the students’ future benefits. It includes, first, adaptability struggle, switching from traditional classroom and face to face instructor training to computer-based training in a virtual classroom makes the learning experience entirely different for students. Their resistance to change doesn’t allow them to adapt to the online learning environment, whereas it takes time for them to get accustomed to Course Management Systems (CMS) and the methods of computer-based education. While passive listening and notes taking are expected in a traditional classroom, online discussions or creating a web page demand springing into action. Students with a “traditional” mindset find it difficult to adapt; however, they need to accept the new learning circumstances with an open mind and heart. Understanding the benefits of eLearning and even discussing them with their peers may change this mindset and better prepare students for online classes. Second, technical issues, many students are not provided with the high bandwidth or the strong internet connection that online courses require, and thus fail to catch up with their virtual classmates: Their weak monitors make it hard to follow the Course Management System and their learning experience becomes problematic. Moreover, most of them live off campus and find it difficult to keep in tune with the technical requirements of the chosen course. Some of them don’t even own computers and seek help in Learning Resource Centers for technical assistance. The only solution to this problem is knowing exactly what kind of technological support they will need for a certain course before enrolling in it, as well as properly equipping themselves for the course’s successful completion. Third, computer literacy, although students are generally tech savvy, and thus able to manage computers well, lack of computer literacy is a major issue among students today. Many of them cannot operate basic programs such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and therefore are not able to handle their files. Furthermore, many students find fixing basic computer problems troublesome, as they have no knowledge in this area. However, technological proficiency is a must for following online courses, as it enables students to manage their assignments and courseware in an organized manner without struggling. Basic courses in computer literacy enhance students’ knowledge in the field; having a fundamental knowledge of computer hardware would help them participate in online classes without interruptions and hindrances. Fourth, time management, time management is a difficult task for eLearners, as online courses require a lot of time and intensive work. Furthermore, whereas it is mostly adults who prefer web-based learning programs for their place and time flexibility, they rarely have the time to take the courses due to their various everyday commitments. A regular schedule planner would be a significant help to these learners, as they could even set reminders for their courses and assignments. Fifth, self- motivation, self-motivation is an eLearning essential requirement; however, many online learners lack it, much to their surprise. After enrolling in distance learning courses, many learners fall behind and nurture the idea of giving up, as difficulties in handling a technological medium also seem insurmountable. Students need to find the motivation to follow the new educational trends and also properly equip themselves for future challenges in their education and careers. Only a positive attitude will help them overcome the challenges in eLearning, though this is hard to practice, students need to understand that it is necessary in order to reap the eLearning’s benefits in the future.
    With the popularity of the internet based education and the tangible benefits it accrues to the learning level of the students, it is often debated that should the classroom education give way to the internet based education. No doubt internet has revolutionized the way we learn but it does not in any way replace the utility of classroom. Because the class not only impart the knowledge but are also the second biggest stage of socialisation after family. The classroom helps us learn how to act without which the entire knowledge becomes meaningless. A classroom environment offers students the opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with their peers and instructors. This is an added social benefit as well as an educational aid. Students get a chance to participate in a lecture or class discussion physically. If something is not understood, interrupting to ask for clarification is always an option. Hence in any case the importance of classroom can’t be obviated. Rather the role of classrooms and also the teachers should be transformed.
    The entire system of classroom education and internet based education should complement each other. Internet based education can become the prime educator while the classroom and the teachers can become the facilitator. A classrooms should become the centre of training on how to acquire knowledge while teacher should act as a coach, a trainer, an inspirer. Classroom and teacher should be utilized to clear doubt about what a student has learned over internet. They should guide and channelize the energy of student in right direction leaving the path travelled and the pace of travel entirely on the student. This way the true purpose of education will be achieved.