Post Publication Independent Review of
Vlachopoulos, D. (2020). COVID-19: Threat or opportunity for online education?"
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Post Publication Independent Review of Vlachopoulos, D. (2020). COVID-19: Threat or opportunity for online education?"
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Post Publication Independent Review of
Vlachopoulos, D. (2020). COVID-19: Threat or opportunity for online education? Higher Learning Research Communication, 10(1), 16–19. DOI: 10.18870/hlrc.v10i1.1179
1. Quote "The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural rganization’s director-general, Audrey Azoulay, said in a recent statement (“Coronavirus Update,” 2020), “While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new, unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education” (para. 1)." End of Quote.
Quote "To ensure a continuity in students’ learning, even under sometimes fragmented national regulatory frameworks—which make the recognition and accreditation of nontraditional (face-to-face) degrees challenging—some governments are looking to find a solution in online education initiatives. Such initiatives may include the use of online synchronous communication and the design, delivery, and assessment of online learning activities within a virtual learning platform. " End of Quote.
The authors observations enforce our understanding that we have been following the traditional way of education, viz, face-to-face education system in a geographical unit which may be a University or College or any subdivision thereof, but we have been pushed into a non-traditional way of education via online education initiatives. Consequently, there will be some concerns that need attention.
2. Quote "For many online education researchers and practitioners, the COVID-19 crisis is being considered as a unique opportunity to support both students and institutions by filling the gap left by conventional (face-to-face) education. Indeed, online education has a number of advantages, not least that it allows educators and students to continue teaching and learning from any location without interruption. As a result, educational institutions can continue to receive anticipated revenues. " End of Quote.
In a period of lockdown and social distancing due to COVID-19, online education may have its own advantages with reference to continuity of teaching-learning processes and anticipated revenues for educational institutions, it remains to be seen whether the advantages manifest themselves the same, or modify in a post COVID-19 environment.
3. Quote "What educators, students, and institutions involved in these “emergency” online education initiatives should keep in mind is that these new measures are, on the whole, untested, and in some cases, they are not applied consistently across educational institutions. " End of Quote.
This observation by the authors seem to be quite valid and may need sufficient attention too.
For instance, attention is drawn to this article at https://in.pcmag.com/how-to-work-from-home/135851/zoom-vs-microsoft-teams-vs-google-meet-a-videoconferencing-face-off
While this review is being written on 20.04.2020, the MHRD has launched a portal YUKTI (Young India Combating Covid with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation). The following links may be accessed for appreciable details
It is noticed that access is unable to be obtained externally. However, an introductory video on youtube details the features in it.
Quote " Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said. “The portal will cover both qualitative and quantitative parameters for effective delivery of services to the academic community at large,” he said. “It will also allow various institutions to share their strategies for various challenges which are there because of the unprecedented situation of Covid-19 and other future initiatives. We hope the portal will give inputs for better planning and enable us to monitor effectively our activities for coming six months,” Nishank added. The portal will also establish a two-way communication channel between the ministry and the institutions so that necessary support system can be provided to the institutions. “We are confident that this portal will help in critical issues related to student promotion policies, placements related challenges and physical and mental well-being of students in these challenging times. The web platform will epitomise its name and prove to be a great enabler in taking the research to the ultimate stakeholders, the citizens of our country,” he added." End of Quote.
It is noticed that Central Universities, IITs, IIMs, IISERs, IISc, IITs, MHRD, NITs, Schools of Planning & Architecture, and some Centrally run Schools are listed access.
It is a very appreciable attempt by the MHRD, but at the same time, the challenges that may be faced by a vast majority of Private Institutions may be more acute than those faced by Central Universities and Institutions of repute (discussion of which is beyond the scope of this review).
This brings us back to the quote in this review comment (from the article being reviewed) Quote "What educators, students, and institutions involved in these “emergency” online education initiatives should keep in mind is that these new measures are, on the whole, untested, and in some cases, they are not applied consistently across educational institutions. " End of Quote, for it is going to take some time before consistency can be achieved, in which time challenges are going to be felt persistently.
4. Quote "Given the circumstances, relying on online education as a solution to ensure continuity of learning in areas impacted by COVID-19 may well prove to be overly optimistic. Especially in countries that take a more conservative approach to the recognition and accreditation of online education, the failure of this experiment may lead to the misconception that online learning is ultimately an ineffective learning model. In turn, this may cripple the progress of less traditional ways of teaching and learning. To avoid this eventuality, it is important to highlight some actions that need to take place for the smooth and effective implementation of online education. " End of Quote.
The authors are pointing out a concern that needs to be given attention.
Let us examine it as a hypothetical case.
a. Assuming, that a University or Institution has been providing quality education, fulfilling appreciable regulatory and/or accreditation norms at National and/or International levels.
Under such a condition, the University or Institution will be attempting to render quality service here too, and consequently, will try to make available additional budgetary allowances for provisioning of online facilities for its faculty and students and also upscale its information technology infrastructure, so that it can attempt to sustain the same model, if deemed necessary in the post COVID-19 scenario; or even otherwise, to extend services to any other online program of the University or Institution in future.
Faculty & Students may also be provided support, especially in this time of bandwidth congestion due to work at home, when all corporate high bandwidth lines are lying idle, and all connectivity has to be done via the home/personal internet connection; by staggered online interaction either live or recorded.
Difficulties encountered, limitations, etc. will add to the knowlegebase of the University or Institution and will assist the learning curve, so that in due course of time, the online education module would be able to be operated seamlessly in an efficient manner, yielding acceptable results.
b. Assuming, that a University or Institution has not been providing quality education, appearing to fulfil regulatory or accreditation norms but not in reality.
Under such a condition, the University or Institution will be stressed out, because, all that has been so far hidden, may start to show its reality, which may earn negative public opinion about the University or Institution.
No Individual nor groups of individuals nor institution will immediately attempt corrective measures. Usually corrective measures, may be taken only as a last resort, when there could be no other option, but otherwise, it is never in human practice (apart from notable exceptions), to take corrective measures. Consequently, the first option would be to kill the messenger instead of accepting the message and take corrective measures. Hence, the first attempt may be to discredit the online teaching-learning process. And it works best, if the Students are made to express discrediting remarks about online teaching-learning process. Since marketing divisions usually have a better voice compared to quality control divisions (though exceptions may be there), and if there is an opinion from the Students section discrediting the online teaching-learning process, it is usually treated as lines out a sacred holy book (though exceptions may be there).
So, it can be understood that reactions to the online teaching-learning process may be varied, and the true essence needs to be taken and given due significance.
Now when the above quote from the research article is read again, it does indicate a significant concern, which needs to be addressed. The quote is provided below for the sake of convenience.
Quote "Given the circumstances, relying on online education as a solution to ensure continuity of learning in areas impacted by COVID-19 may well prove to be overly optimistic. Especially in countries that take a more conservative approach to the recognition and accreditation of online education, the failure of this experiment may lead to the misconception that online learning is ultimately an ineffective learning model. In turn, this may cripple the progress of less traditional ways of teaching and learning. To avoid this eventuality, it is important to highlight some actions that need to take place for the smooth and effective implementation of online education. " End of Quote.
Sufficient attention and necessary processes/protocols need to be called for, with greater good for the Nation in mind, instead of serving the vested interests of a few, which can even compromise the National interests globally.
Street-smartness was never an option, while Nobility is quite essential when standing for National Interests or for that of mankind globally.
Attention is hereby called for the Twitter Broadcast by the Prime Minister of India via https://twitter.com/PMOIndia/status/1251839308085915649 , exhibiting the highest orders of Nobility.
Consequently, when any concern of National Interest or for that of mankind globally requires Nobility; then a more higher order of Nobility may be required in Higher Education; and more so, during times of such pandemics as COVID-19, when the right to education itself may be at stake.
Otherwise, such new initiatives such as online teaching learning processes cannot be attempted as a non traditional way of teaching; holding high promise of evolving into a traditional way of teaching of the future. And whatever needs to be done, to obtain accurate unbiased observations out of such online teaching learning processes, has to be done.
5. Quote "Governments and policymakers should create a framework for each level of education—primary, secondary, and higher—that will equally focus on the implementation of online education, the required methodologies, and the desired outcomes of the practice. " End of Quote
Quote "Although each institution should be given the flexibility in how to implement online learning, a validated framework and some common goals are necessary to ensure consistency, learning, and achievement. " End of Quote.
Once this is done, online learning will become streamlined and will also help to provide more avenue for innovations & enhanced research output at multiple levels; with enhanced transparency which will benefit all stakeholders and the Nation.
6. Quote "According to the United Nation’s (2015) Sustainable Development Goal 4, “achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development” (para. 4). Does everyone have access to the necessary hardware and software for online delivery? If not, how can we provide such resources to the most vulnerable groups at short notice? Any meaningful effort to this end must rely to an extent on a collaboration between the government and the private sector. " End of Quote.
Especially when development activities face a lag due to COVID-19, thrust on online education may open up new verticals as a direct or indirect consequence of the result of such activities.
7. Quote "Current research has demonstrated that technology itself doesn’t guarantee an effective—or pleasant—learning experience. This can only be achieved through systematic training initiatives that clearly set out the teaching and learning that institutions expect of their educators and students, respectively. These training initiatives should be in line with the policy frameworks discussed earlier and should cover both technological and pedagogical aspects. End of Quote.
Any new system will always have a learning curve associated with it. Since the traditional systems of University or Collegiate Education are decades/centuries old, we dont have a learning curve; but we do experience a learning curve whenever a new adaptation is brought into the traditional system of education. Consequently, there will definitely be an associated learning curve for online system of education. Since the focus is on online education, the training initiatives themselves can be undertaken at a National Centralized Facility, which will help all Institutions throughout the Nation to receive uniform standardized training, instead of relying on distributed unrelated non-standardized local facilities to provide such training initiatives. Also, if such training initiatives are done via a National Centralized Facility, it may also possibly root out any type of unhealthy consultancy/lobbying efforts for higher ratings/accreditation of Institutional Online-Teaching Processes.
8. Quote "Online education can undoubtedly offer new learning environments that make learning accessible and support students in developing competencies, skills, and attitudes (Vlachopoulos et al., 2012). Evaluation and monitoring of these new environments should be carried out for many reasons: to identify their impact on students’ learning experience; to provide us with insights into how and what the students are learning; to provide us with data on how online practices can be improved; and, finally, to provide an evidence base that can be used by other countries looking to implement online education." End of Quote.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, every Nation on the Planet will be looking for desperate solutions to innovate and open up new verticals. Under such conditions, where survival of the fittest may not be an exception but a norm, evaluation, monitoring and standardizing such avenues of online education can also possibly lead to enhanced FDI in online global education, wherein the service area is not limited by geographical boundaries. With proper accreditation (devoid of any type of unhealthy consultancies and lobbying) in force, with genuinely verified faculty holding genuine academic degrees issued by genuine academic Institutions, such new online learning environments, apart from providing avenues for growth for the Students, the Institutions and the Nation; these new online learning environments may also help to provide the much needed space for the growth of the Faculty too, which will again translate into better results from these avenues; accompanied with consequent transparent online monitoring & accreditation records that can cause brand elevation by themselves, without any need for further marketing.
9. Quote "There is no doubt that this current context is leading to a reconsideration of investments in educational technology, as investors, education technology companies, governments, officials, and policymakers are trying to support this emergency remote-teaching situation (Hodges et al., 2020). Specifically, we see several education technology companies offering free access for institutions, teachers, and students to some of their products and services, which are now tested by millions of users from all over the world. Moreover, institutions are in negotiations with companies on bigger projects, such as the acquisition of learning platforms, proctored examination solutions, and synchronous communication solutions, among other products and services. It is important to mention that this uptick in demand does not lead to an increase in sales, mainly because most of these institutions don’t have the budget for such initiatives or because they don’t have effective procurement processes. At the same time, governments and officials cannot decide on whether they should invest in short-term solutions or a long-term plan. " End of Quote.
There has been a massive investment in the Education Sector (at School, College & University Levels). Apart from genuine efforts to reap benefits for all stake holders inclusive of Students and the Nation, there could have also been undesirable offshoots (without proper long term planning in conjunction with short term benefits) as profit maximization achieved by exploiting possible loopholes in regulatory norms, unhealthy consultancy/lobbying efforts, nonstandard administrative processes, deceptive student centric processes, etc. with/without the realization of the long term undesirable consequent effect of demotion of brand value, that can possibly obliterate the Institution itself, with possible associated capital loss.
The introduction of online learning processes in the Education System, accompanied with monitoring & accreditation processes, and consequent transparent monitoring & accreditation records, should be able to attract good investments from the Nation and Worldwide, which will help to further enhance the quality of online education systems in a cyclic manner, with a consequent automatic purging of malaise that could have crept into the Education Systems. Further, it is expected to obliterate any & all (known & unknown) unhealthy practices that could have been possibly plaguing the Education Systems.
A Systematic Approach at the National Level, will sure lead to very good results in the Education Sector, consequent direct development in the Education Systems, with collateral benefit to Research & Industry.
In summary, Online Education Systems which are Nationally Monitored, Accredited and Transparently Governed may be the magic potion that that the Nation could be looking for, to cope up with the uncertainties in the post COVID-19 world, whether it be Academia, Research or Industry and consequently revamp the Economy, with consequent collateral benefits in Foreign Policy & better Relations.