The emergency shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic: Undergraduate students’ Experience

-Higher Education for the Future

COVID-19 has left the institutions worldwide, with no choice but an emergency shift to virtual learning, creating several opinions associated with digital infrastructure, digital divide, digital literacy, technical and pedagogic skills of teachers, digital contents, and so on.

The teaching–learning methodologies have been remodelled globally due to the outbreak that many schools and teachers around the world are struggling in alternative ways for delivery of instruction remotely. 

Though the National Education Policy, 2020 talks about digital and online education, the preparedness does not seem to be conducive in India. The budgetary allocation for digital learning was reduced from 6.04 billion in 2019–2020 to 4.69 billion in 2020–2021. In 2017–2018, only 24% of Indian households were reported to have Internet facilities (National Statistical Office-NSO, 2019).

Online learning relies on the Internet for interaction between students and teachers.

 The integration of information and communication technologies in the teaching–learning process became a fundamental part of countries worldwide. The widespread expansion of Internet connectivity, availability of different e-applications, modern gadgets, and more, in the twenty-first century, had pushed the educational institutions to go online, at least to a combination of online-offline mode. Innovations like VLEs, MOOCs, blended learning, flipped classrooms, and so on, had already got impetus in most countries of the world.

 There are empirical investigations also claiming the advantages of online learning. Moussa-Inaty (2017) in a study observed that though a high percentage of higher education students preferred face-to-face learning, almost all the student samples in the study enjoyed a blended approach and opined to take more of such courses. 

Despite challenges all around, the institutions in the country are left with no choice other than an emergency shift to online mode in the middle of the semester. It is also uncertain when they can return to the face-to-face traditional classroom. In Assam, clear notification from the government is yet to come regarding the resumption of the face-to-face classes at a higher level. Therefore, it becomes imperative to know how far the emergency online learning is effective so far, which can be perceived from the experiences and satisfaction level of the beneficiaries, that is, students.

The primary purpose of this study is to throw light on the implementation mechanism of COVID-19-lockdown-induced emergency online learning at the undergraduate level in Assam, India, and assess its effectiveness, and finally, the problems faced therein, from the perspective of students’ experience and satisfaction. Primary data were collected from 132 undergraduate students drawn at random from different provincialized colleges in Assam through using a questionnaire in Google Form.

The result of this study revealed an unsatisfactory picture of emergency online learning implemented overnight. Poor Internet connectivity, insufficient IT infrastructure, irregular electricity, significant cost involvement in data plans, lack of proper environment at home, lack of technical and pedagogic skills of teachers, students’ conformation etc. turned out as the central challenges. In a country like India where people were struggling to get quality education, is now facing the challenge to adopt a new model. Institutions are struggling in trying out options to deal with the never sought situation.

 

Now, the concern is not the quality of education, rather it is merely the delivery of education. 

It is high time that all the stakeholders work collaboratively to create, adapt and evaluate innovative techniques, user-friendly tools, student-friendly contents, develop pedagogical and technical skills of teachers, and above all a positive attitude for inclusive and effective online delivery of higher education in India in coming days.

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Article details:
Using Students’ Experience to Derive Effectiveness of COVID-19-Lockdown-Induced Emergency Online Learning at Undergraduate Level: Evidence from Assam, India
Afzalur Rahman
First Published January 30, 2021 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/2347631120980549
Higher Education for the Future

 

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