Online Education during COVID-19 Periods

Technology perpetuates learning. In the education realm, technology allows learning to go beyond the walls of the traditional classroom and to transcend the regularly scheduled learning sessions. The growth and usage of the Internet have transformed the way education is delivered and conducted. Now, not only there are a plethora of educational resources available as Open Educational Resources (OERs), the advancements of the Internet and its application also allows multiple ways of synchronous or asynchronous collaboration between teachers and students to take place. This expands the capacity of innovation for the teachers to conduct more customized online learning and to create a more engaging online learning environment.

Due to threat of COVID-19 Pandemic, schools, colleges and university are facing decisions about how to continue teaching and learning while keeping their teachers, staff and student safe from public health emergency that is moving fast and not well understood. Many institutions have opted to suspend all face-face classes, including labs and other learning activities, and have mandated that teachers should move their courses online to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Moving instruction online can enable the flexibility of teaching and learn anywhere and anytime.

Large scale outbreaks of pandemic disease and natural disaster took place in the global wide, affecting not only humans’ health, but also the education sector. Previous outbreaks of infectious diseases have prompted widespread school closings around the world, with varying levels of effectiveness (Simon and Mallory 2020, Barnum and Matt 2020 and Frieden T 2020). Mathematical modelling has shown that closing schools may delay transmission of an outbreak. However, effectiveness depends on the contacts children maintain outside of school. (Zumla A, Yew W and Hui DS 2010 and Cauchemez 2009). School closures may be useful when enacted promptly. If school closures occur late relative to an outbreak, they are less active and may not have any impact at all (Simon and Mallory 2020, Barnum and Matt 2020

During the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic in the United States, school closures and public gathering bans were associated with lower total mortality rates. (Barnum and Matt 2020). School closures were shown to reduce morbidity from the Asian flu by 90% during the 1957–58 outbreak ( Frieden T 2020), and up to 50% in controlling influenza in the U.S., 2004–2008 (Wheeler CC, Erhart LM and  Jehn ML (2010). 

Multiple countries successfully slowed the spread of infection through school closures during the 2009 H1N1 Flu pandemic Mandatory school closures and other social distancing measures were associated with a 29% to 37% reduction in influenza transmission rates (NIH 2011). Early school closures in the United States delayed the peak of the 2009 H1N1 Flu pandemic (Simon and Mallory 2020). 

Concepts of Online Education/Learning

Online education is an education that takes place over the Internet. However, online learning is just one type of “distance learning” – the umbrella term for any learning that takes place across distance and not in a traditional classroom. Online learning meets the needs of an ever-growing population of students who cannot or prefer not to participate in traditional classroom settings. These learners include those unable to attend traditional classes, who cannot find a particular class at their chosen institution, who live in remote locations, who work full-time and can only study at or after work, and those who simply prefer to learn independently. Online education has the potential to create educational opportunities for individuals who may have faced unsurpassable barriers before the expansion of online. Online education is a computer-based educational tool or system that enables you to learn anywhere and at any time. Today online education is mostly delivered through the Internet. 

However, in the past, it was delivered using a blend of computer-based methods like CD-ROM. Technology has advanced so much that the geographical gap is bridged with the use of tools that make you feel as if you are inside the classroom. Online education offers the ability to share material in all kinds of formats such as videos, slideshows, word documents and PDFs. Conducting webinars and communicating with professors via chat and message forums is also an option available to users. Some of the most important developments in education have happened since the launch of the Internet. These day learners are well versed in the use of smartphones, text messaging and using the Internet so participating in and running an online course has become a simple affair.Online education/learning which is an approach of delivering education using computers and communication technologies, such technologies might include but not limited to: the Internet, CD-ROMs, Personal Digital Assistant (PDAs), Mobile phones and any electronic device that can be used to deliver education or training.

Online learning is not only about training and instruction but also about learning that is tailored to individuals. Different terminologies have been used to define learning that takes place online, a fact that makes it challenging to develop a generic definition. Terms that are commonly used to define online learning include e-learning, Internet learning, distributed Learning, networked Learning, Tele-learning and telematics distributed Learning, Virtual Learning, computer-assisted Learning, Web-based Learning, and distance learning (Bates, A. W. 2005 and Ally, M. 2004).  It includes the delivery of content via Internet, Intranet, and Extranet, satellite broadcast, audio-video tape, interactive T.V. and CD-ROM (Kaplan-Leierson, E.2006). All of these terms imply that the learner is at a distance from the tutor or instructor, that the learner uses some form of technology (usually a computer) to access the learning material, and that the learner uses technology to interact with the tutor or instructor and other learners, and that some form of support is provided to learners. It refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance and support learning. However, this encompasses an ample array of systems, from students using email and accessing course materials online while following a course on campus to programmes delivered entirely online. It is the network-enabled convey of skills and knowledge (Ally, M. (2004).

Online education delivers content through electronic information and communications technologies (ICTs). According to Ajayi, I.A. (2008) the use of these facilities, involves various method which includes systematized feedback system, computer-based operation network, video conferencing and audio conferencing, internet worldwide websites and computer-assisted instruction.                                         

Online learning is defined as learning experiences in synchronous or asynchronous environments using different devices (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, etc.) with internet access. In these environments, students can be anywhere (independent) to learn and interact with instructors and other students (Singh and Thurman, 2019).

Benefits/Advantages of Online Education

Online education or learning has several benefit or advantages over the traditional system of education, which include the following:

Accessibility and suitability: Students can proceed through a training program at their own pace and at their place.  Online learning provides accessibility due to which a student can learn from anywhere in the world. This is an especially important consideration for students who wish to study in a different country. It does not matter where a student lives and what he wants to study- he can always find a suitable course or even a Degree Program that can be followed from home. Their geographic location does not constrain students learning options. 

Personalized Learning: Online Learning system enables a student to determine and process his/her learning style, content, aim, current knowledge and individual skills. Therefore, person-specific education could be provided by creating individual learning styles. Online learning enables the individual to plan and direct his/her learning. It has the potential to motivate, develop confidence and self-esteem, and overcome many barriers that learners encounter, personalize the learning experience, widen access and improve the learning experience, while also helping people to develop their ICT skills. 

Develops cognitive abilities: In a study, it was found that E-Learning may be useful in developing the cognitive abilities of pupil teachers (Singh & Mishra, 2009). It was found that students of the e-learning program had higher achievement levels than their counterparts. A student can find unlimited information which he can access just by the click of a button. Many Online programs are offered by some of the most prestigious universities from all around the world. The student can take such a course online, which can be helpful for the development of his cognitive abilities.

Cost-Effectiveness: Online learning is cost-effective because less money is spent on travelling and in buying books or spending money in a college context. Since it can be carried out at any geographic location, and there are no travel expenses, this type of learning is less costly than learning at a traditional institute. 

Globalization: New Technologies are narrowing geographical barriers in the way of education. The world has become a small village, and the opportunities to have information about other nations are within our access. The electronic Net world connects people all over the globe. Therefore, it is vital to experiment with electronic learning situations wherein students share ideas and resources, access information about current events and historical archives, interact with experts, and use online databases.

Maximize Physical Resources: Online education Lessen demand on limited campus infrastructure; decrease congestion on campus and parking lots. 

Basic Computer Skills: Online education provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain technical skills in using Information Communication Technology (ICT). These skills are likely to be useful to them in their professional life and all future endeavours which may be in themselves marketable features of their education. Laurillard (2004) suggests that learning which involves using ICT helps the student to gain different types of computer skills and capabilities.

Equal Opportunity to all: In online education and/Learning all students are equal, they are not treated differently based upon caste, creed, race, sex, religion, and disability, etc. Rather Online Learning is a boon for learners who are disabled and face problems in commuting and for those sections of the society who live at far off places where the schools/colleges are at a distant place.

Adaptability: Online education provides adaptability as e-learners can gain from any area whenever making learning workable for individuals who have not possessed the capacity to give time to learning in their day by day plans.  Oblinger and Hawkins (2005) emphasize this point by saying that “For the developing populace of grown-up learners, the requests of adjusting work, family, and learning make online learning is a vital alternative.

Conclusion

Online education encompasses a range of technologies such as the world wide web, email, chat, new groups and texts, audio and video conferencing delivered over computer networks to impart education. It helps the learner to learn at their own pace, according to their own convenience. Online Education requires plenty of resources and careful planning.

In an attempt by the health officials to prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 into community across the world. The pandemic situation has the lives of students resulting in the total closures of schools in many countries worldwide. Alternative approaches, such as online learning, was then used to maintain undisrupted learning. 

However, several challenges were reported during the application of online learning in the global wide according to the literature. For example, Internet connection can be unreliable if there are thousands of learners learning simultaneously, Some instructors can find it difficult to find online resources that are the most suitable in their teaching contexts because thousands of resources are published online, Several instructors and learners do not have the appropriate digital skills to teach and learn online. 

This can make the online teaching/learning experience inconvenient for them, Several learners lack crucial learning competencies, such as adaptation, independent study, self-regulation and motivation, which are key factors for successful online Learning and Several instructors simply use direct instructions without considering important features of online learning, such as interactivity, social presence, and cognitive presence, resulting in unmotivating learning experiences.

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