Will the Coronavirus Forever Alter the College Experience?

No one predicted that lives will be altered at this scale at the starting of the year 2020. Many sectors have changed unforeseen due to Covid-19. Companies that implement strict privacy measures had to change their policies and let employees work from home to whom they wouldn’t even let use mobile phones during work hours. A few other companies track employee mobile GPS to make sure the employee is in one place working. Employees are getting used to working from home such a way that they are losing their sense of office timings. Workers who work for a minimum wage or those who depend on weekly jobs are finding it very difficult to find a job. The education system had drastic changes since the beginning of the pandemic. Across the world, all schools are closed and millions of children are now outside their classrooms during their class hours. The rise of digital platforms is taking education to a stage where going back would be a tough one. 

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual platforms were widely used. It is a convenient method for students to learn a new tool or music lovers to learn a new instrument at their convenience. Online learning software, video conferencing platforms, tutoring tools, and even language apps were being used long before the pandemic. But after conventional education took a break, even the students who do not have any idea about online education learned about it. Many poor families are forced to buy laptops for children so they can attend the classes online. 

Colleges have to prepare their curriculum differently for this academic year. Although it might seem that everything is the same except for students coming into the classroom, the colleges must prepare a pace in which the classes must be taken. Teachers must be instructed as to how they will conduct their classes and make sure that students are attending the classes. As students will not be able to access laboratories when needed, they must be introduced to an alternative to gain practical knowledge. For these changes and to adapt to the complex technological infrastructure,  a proper orientation for the faculty and the students is essential. As the focus would be majorly on platforms like the zoom and Goto meeting, the virtual education may not be an option students love. 

For students who are habituated to online education, nothing might change in their activities but for students who are not a big fan of online education and try to avoid them, do. As they might find that online education may not be an effective form compared to in-person classes. Nevertheless, the demand for online education is bound to grow. Students who are used to using college facilities like libraries, gym, and extracurricular activities might have a hard time staying away from them. There is also a chance, maybe a little, that students who do not usually use those facilities might realize their importance. Students who are yet to adapt to this method might find it useful later. They may realize the advantages of online education. Educators who are new to this format might find it hard to adapt as well. Some might hate it all the way and oppose it whenever they can some might find it fruitful and use it to their advantage. This academic year is also a challenge for universities to analyze which course is better taught online which course needs alternative methods for students to gain practical knowledge. 

Many Universities worldwide are looking into different methods they can use to start the academic year as safely as possible. A few universities are thinking of starting their classes sooner than usual and finish the semester earlier so they can regulate the traveling of students. Some universities are thinking of letting a low number of students attend the classes when in-person sessions resumed. So they can monitor social distancing with ease and increase safety. A few colleges are looking into letting 50% percent of the usual strength into one class. By which they Maintain a low number of classes with low strength. The rest are to attend the classes virtually and the next day the students who attended the in-person class are to attend virtual class and the students who attended virtually the previous day, are to attend in-person. Though these methods are debatable, many schools, colleges, and universities around the world are using methods and they might become standard rules to be followed everywhere. Students must go through health security protocols every day like wearing masks, getting tested regularly, and being quarantined if infected. 

Some may argue that online education would give poor results when there is no proper training, sufficient bandwidth, and preparation. But online education is bound to become an integral component of education as information technology incorporates with the education system. The other problem with online education, probably a big one, is access to the internet. Privileged students around the world have no problem in attending online classes while underprivileged students without stable internet or computers find it hard to gain access to online classes. Different age group kids have different perspectives on online education. Children are easily distracted so more effective ways are required to keep their concentration on the subject. The learning must be fun and interactive to keep children occupied. College students might find online education an effective way to learn as they can learn at their own pace, research more, and revise often. 

Just like humanity adapted to e-commerce, it is essential to identify the importance of e-education or e-learning. Students must be trained to look at the advantages of technological integration and changes in traditional education or the universities might face another crisis along with scheduling and academic improvements. It is upon universities to conduct experiments in the first semester of the academic year during the pandemic. Following up with students and faculty if the classes are being conducted effectively and how much do the students learn with the new methods being implemented.

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Blog Post written by:
Pavan Turaga
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