While the nationwide lockdown to fight the Covid-19 pandemic has brought life to a standstill in the second most populated nation in the world, it is the education sector which has evidently taken a giant leap forward in terms of online education.
While some believe that online education is still a faraway proposition given the Indian ecology, many others feel that one of the biggest plus from the lockdown will be the digital revolution in the education sector.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar Mamidala belongs to the second category, who sees a potential partnership between the traditional learning methods and the "learning from anywhere, anytime" concept.
Speaking to IANS, Mamidala claimed that the way India imparts education in the higher educational institutes will get reshaped post the Covid-19 pandemic.
"While the digital platforms were widely available even before the Covid-19 outbreak, educational institutes were too slow in adopting them. But during the lockdown period, most higher educational institutes have swiftly shifted to online mode of instruction, abandoning the age-old class room teaching," Mamidala said.
He seemed optimistic about the future of e-learning in higher education when he claimed that the swift adoption of online classes by the higher educational institutes like JNU will continue post the lockdown period.
"This is a very positive outcome of the lockdown and is expected to continue post Covid-19. This is primarily because our negative attitude towards using online platforms for teaching has taken a back seat. Additionally, this sudden discovery of new ways of imparting education is bound to bring more innovation and digitisation," he added.
When asked of the digital divide, which many claim would be a barrier, Mamidala claimed that the arguments are put forward by those who are afraid of positive changes in the society.
"The argument that this new approach will cause more digital divide is unfounded. This is an argument put forward by those who are afraid of a positive change in the society," he said.
Backing his claims on data availability, Mamidala said that almost every student in universities or colleges has access to smartphones, which are needed for access to advanced e-learning modules.
"In India, we have more than 500 million smartphone users and the numbers are growing rapidly. In Indian higher educational institutes, we have 34 million students. Therefore, it is safe to assume that every student in our universities and colleges owns a smartphone or has access to a smartphone," Mamidala said.
"Even if the smartphone has only 2G network connection, it is still possible to download videos, audio files, documents and participate in live audio meetings. Therefore, connecting with the students who are from remote areas with weak network connectivity will not be a challenge," he added.
Mamidala himself has been working extensively for strengthening the online learning infrastructure in his university, organising several webinars and other information video conferences for the teachers to adopt to the newest method of imparting knowledge.
According to him, in countries like India, online learning will emerge as a game changer in providing greater access to high quality education to students from different socio-economic backgrounds.
"The Covid-19 induced lockdown will help us complement traditional learning with the "learning from anywhere, anytime" concept. In a country like India, this will have a significant impact in providing greater access to high quality education to students from different socio-economic backgrounds," he said.