FOSMA Noida where I work, carried out online classes for the master and mate grades nearly a month before the official DG Shipping approval. These pre-approval sessions were subsequently termed as free practice classes. At personal level, from the beginning of lockdown, I had started using the zoom platform for regular tuition to CBSE class X students of my locality. The necessity having got imposed on me- a Father with no work & present full day at home.
There are more similarities than differences between a physical class and the online version. Engagement with the student entails thorough planning and preparation. The hard effort and organisation that a teacher carries out is actually before the lecture begins. Delivery in the classroom is leisure and smile of gratitude on the pupil’s face at the end of his session, the sweet honorarium.
The lecture is to be designed keeping the slowest student in mind. For a teacher, the most important element of engagement is in knowing what the learner already knows. The student starts the process of searching and identifying credibility in a teacher even before the first lecture. Therefore the initial classes that ‘break of the ice’ require greater watchfulness. Establishment of trust is a crucial element in transfer of knowledge.
Unlike a physical classroom, online class does not require an instructor to be present with tight fit suit and polished shoes. Thus complete focus and undivided attention is on the topic. With little distraction from leg pulling classmates, there is less inhibition and more freedom. When student is at ease, he is even more receptive.
However one crucial element of a conventional classroom, the competition is missing in an online class. This must regularly be introduced by the teacher through questions and quizzes. Skill lies in making it quick and keeping it simple. Avoid e-mails during a session as it breaks continuity. Use of pre-prepared questionnaire sent to students through link on WhatsApp group is also a smart idea; maligning them on the marks secured in this exercise is simply not.
The distance classes are also required to be recorded. This has naturally brought a new challenge to the class room. Most teachers feel restricted, even fearful! Then there are a large number of LMS- Learning Management Systems available each with variety of features. These appear useful to a college management only if it understands that people and processes go hand in hand. That intellectual rights of a person are duly respected and the faculty on-line are not put in the line of fire. The risk to livelihood is very clear in this system. It could be made lesser through robust regulation.
All this reminds me of the words of the poet, writer, music composer, Rabindranath Tagore who wrote: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…….into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”