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Opinions of Monday, 20 April 2020

Columnist: Jemima Deladem Dotsey

Virtual learning sees the light in the wake of coronavirus

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Learning outside the four walls of an educational facility has seen its fair share of experience, students and their lecturers have been thrown out of the classroom. In the wake of the pandemic era of the novel Coronavirus, the utilization of computers and/or the internet has been put into full force with learning activities occurring outside a confined educational facility. The outbreak of the Coronavirus has shifted learning through the use of technology. However, the pandemic has taken out the joy of in human to human interaction, between the students and their lecturers, not forgetting socialization bit among the student body themselves.

The light of virtual learning shines brightest in the developed countries, but it is blinking to glow in developing countries as well. The infrastructure to develop virtual learning are at a varying stages of development but COVID-19 and its aftermath will see more virtual learning all over the world against future uncertainties. For now, staff and students not acquainted with the use of virtual technologies should speed up during this lockdown period to acquaint themselves because the world is always moving ahead and would not wait for those who do not or cannot cope.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provides a list of various educational platforms and application including; Edmodo, Google Classroom, Seesaw, Cell-Ed, Skype, Zoom and Lark among others. These online learning platforms and applications give teachers, students, parent and school administrators the chance to interact during this period of school closure. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms such as Alison, EdX, Coursera, etc. also offer free (some providers may charge small fees for certificate of completion) online courses and serve as great avenue for individuals to learn new skills and advance their careers.

Online learning offers a wide range of advantages to students and parents, such that studies can be done in a learning environment that works best for individuals. Also, the cost incurred to commute to class and housing costs are minimized. The use of online learning platforms also helps individuals pick up technical skills as they navigate their way through the various online learning systems.

Virtual learning with all its advantages, however, comes with costs. The cost of studying online is financially associated with the fact that students have to first acquire a computer be it a desktop computer or laptop/tablet, make cash available for internet services, enrol and pay fees, and buying and subscribing for educational materials. With this in mind, it is important for students to prepare adequately for the future of online learning.

Student not fully acquainted with the use of computers, and even tablets need quick skills to upgrade. A 2019 study by Northeast University noted that many academic institutions tended not accept staff with online degrees because they lack practical traditional teaching methods but may however make an exception to accept staff with degree acquired online based on the reputation and brand of the awarding institution.

On the flip side, online degree holding staff hold numerous advantages over traditional degree holders when it comes to expertise in managing virtual learning system. This era of the COVID-19 outbreak has raised more than enough awareness on virtual teaching, and all must embrace it as the new mode of knowledge delivery in this 21st century. __ By Jemima Deladem Dotsey

(TV Anchor, AAU TV)