Visualize a learning environment. What was the first thought that entered your mind? Was it lecture halls occupied by students being constantly monitored by an alert professor, or was it a student fixated in front of his/her monitor probably with a pair of headphones on?

The COVID -19 pandemic has resulted in schools being shut all across the world and has made the latter situation the new normal. Globally, it has been reported that over 1.2 billion children are out of classrooms. With this precipitous shift, many have begun to wonder whether the online form of imparting knowledge will continue to function post-pandemic.

Let’s face the facts! Education today is in crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has utterly disrupted a system that was already losing relevance. In such a situation, could the move to online learning be the catalyst to establish a more effective method of educating students? While the unsolicited and hasty shift to online learning is a notable hindrance to this goal, people who have experienced the benefits of e-learning first-hand plan on making it a part of their new normal.

E-learning via platforms like NPTEL saves time, energy and is an effective method to promote knowledge enhancement by quality faculty from any corner in the world. Moreover, it provides a platform that enables students to attend lectures within the comfort of their homes. Nevertheless, there are profuse challenges to overcome. Restricted to phone screens and technology, the kinesthetic learning and exchange of ideas among students and teachers have been severely affected. A recent survey brings out that less than 15% of rural Indian households have Internet (as opposed to 42% urban Indian households). Accordingly, the disparate availability of internet access and lack of technological awareness is also a matter of concern that ought to be addressed. The adverse health impact of staring at the blue screen for hours is also another major drawback.

So who wins? The anticlimactic truth here is that there’s just no clear winner. Each training approach has its own pros and cons. Though we cannot say for sure whether virtual learning will operate post-pandemic, it is definitely one sector where investment has not dried up yet. The gravity of disseminating education uniformly, across all sections of the society, is definitely something the pandemic has made clear. The question of whether or not virtual learning can play a remarkable role here is contingent on each one of us.

Vardhah Anees