Online Education: For remote Northeast India, digital learning remains a challenge

Online learning cannot be an exclusive mode of learning. We ought to cope up with digital advancement and revolution yet retrain traits or importance of class room learning cannot be compromised.

ByJoseph M Thohrii

Updated on 17 Jul 2021, 2:25 pm

(Representational Image: Unsplash)

(Representational Image: Unsplash)


THE 21st century is an era of digital transformation, a change that would remain in our activities of learning and pursuit of knowledge. The digital transformation brings unparallel change to the growth of communication and development. It is believed that as communication gets better; relationships become stronger. As relationship grows, communication becomes both easier and more effective. Modern technology is undoubtedly the best gift to human society. The electronic revolution that happened almost concurrently has further transformed communication into a powerhouse, the influence which knows no limit in space. The proper use of communication builds a better human society by developing a good social relationship. What has transpired in the education sector is the use of digitization as a tool for learning; capacitated with the internet facilities offering a ground for transformation and change. For a remote region of Northeast India, digital learning is a challenge during this difficult period.

Re-thinking Education System

In every crisis there comes the opportunity for humanity to rise above the situation and transcend the existential predicaments. Humans have always come out refined after every crisis with new outlook, new vision and new way of living. The methods are reoriented, the tools are changed and the future is re-imagined. At the dawn of the new millennium, technological change magnified the optical view of the globe, bringing the world ever connected than before. As much as technology augmented freedom of the mind from ignorant Coronavirus had quarantined the body in the room. The pandemic outbreak has paralysed the education system worldwide. However, virtual class or so called online class came to rescue the education system in the learning process. With the onset of the pandemic outbreak which incapacitated the physical classes online classes were effortlessly switched on as an alternative mode of learning. Universities, colleges and schools have been teaching the academic curriculum through various Apps like Zoom, Google meet, Seesaw, Vico Smartboad, Byju’s and so on. Thanks to the technological advancement and the digitally equipped learners. We have been ushered finally into a technocratic world, and the situation seems to have been written on a digital wall; for those with less equipped in the techno-world would be in the second place to finish the race. A clear manifestation of a digital divide that exist among the students and teachers-students learning community.  

Virtual learning: A supplement not an alternative

Virtual online learning has always been a debatable forum of learning in the academic curriculum. One must remember online learning is only a supplement to offline/physical learning. To put more discreetly, online learning cannot be an exclusive mode of learning. We ought to cope up with digital advancement and revolution yet retrain traits or importance of class room learning cannot be compromised. The punch line “No Google or Technology can replace a Teacher ever” seem to echo in the minds of teacher-students’ relationship as months are stretched to yearlong online classes. It is almost axiomatic without computing for further premises. 

During the class room learning, teachers find it difficult to draw the attention of the students. The image of the students are displayed on the teacher’s screen however, it is almost a difficult inference to know if students pays due attention to the teacher. Students’ mind could wonder and wander around the world. So we can imagine during the online class the level of attention students would pay heed to the teacher’s talk. There are good numbers of sincere students who are attentive and open to this type of learning. Beside the take on the virtual learning, the adolescent and teenager’s stage of ‘stress and storm’ also added to the restlessness stage of their life.

Viability and Availability

The opportunity on ‘viability’ and ‘availability’ remains in limbo as the sky network denies accessibility for the basic form of learning to function fully. In the process of digital learning the common question asked is whether everyone is counted in the digital space of learning or has the digital network left behind the learners? There are places where network have not reached till date yet and there are also places where network are not friendly and accessible for online classes. The bigger question is; do the poor and marginalised able to afford smart phones? The situation of network and poverty becomes either one of a problem or both especially in the rural hill areas. Some families have even three or four children studying online simultaneously, and parents could hardly afford one smart phone. Do we consider this scenario? The rural and less fortunate in terms of income suffers the switch of a global pandemic.

Life is made uncertain with lots of bleak future because we cannot be very sure whether the students have really learned or have they spent time trying to make sense of the distorted voice coming to them at an interval of seconds and minutes? How do teachers impart their knowledge in such a hostile environment with the online class?  What added woes to the situation had been lack of electricity to charge their smart phone to be ready for online classes? Following up the student meticulously and minutely becomes an obstacle for the institution and teacher. So this creates the difficulties of assessing the student learning and the qualities of education per se. With the online classes prevailing for more than one and half year, the education area in term of tools for learning remains a distance dream.

(The Author, is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Imphal, and can be reached on mtjo89@gmail.com. Views expressed are personal)

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Joseph M Thohrii

Joseph M Thohrii

The Author is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Imphal, Manipur, and can be reached at mtjo89@gmail.com

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