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Make online class more interactive; this way, they can complement physical classrooms post Covid

Teachers will need to go the extra mile to foster social interactions between students sitting remotely from each other.

From issues of access centred on digital connectivity, devices and literacy to the fact that it can’t replicate the social-emotional component of classroom learning, there are a fair number of criticisms of online learning. However, if education hasn’t surrendered completely to the pandemic and the need for distancing, it is because of online/on-air teaching. So, the effort has to be towards addressing its lacuna. Access simply needs enough administrative will to deal with; it is the limitations of technology that will prove challenging. Online education can never replace the classroom experience, but Sal Khan of the Khan Academy, writing in The New York Times, discussed ways to enrich the virtual classroom experience.

Given the loss of human connections facilitated by brick&mortar classrooms, he says, teachers will need to go the extra mile to foster social interactions between students sitting remotely from each other. Online sessions should be live, teacher-led conferences, rather than unidirectional instruction videos or bilateral chats. To foster peer interaction, the teacher can, for instance, divide the class into groups and task the groups with solving a maths problem. Lessons can be structured as group activities—for instance, one group could be tasked with explaining the digestive system to the rest of the class, while another explains the nervous system, and another the circulatory system, etc.

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The entire class would have learnt about organ systems, with students collaborating in groups while also interacting as a class; all the while, the teacher plays a facilitatory and a supervisory role in knowledge exchange. To ensure work is being done in collaboration, as also to keep a check on the authenticity of students’ work, the teacher can ask them to record their activity. Simulating a live classroom in a Zoom call will take imagination, but if this is achieved, post the pandemic, online classrooms can keep complementing brick&mortar ones.

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