There are, no doubt, advantages in online learning. There is no need for a teacher to be present, no need to attend classes, seminars or management sessions. There is no need to go through the pedestrian grind of catching buses or commuting back and forth between residence and lecture hall or tailori
By Ahmed Kamal Khusro
Online teaching has progressed from being a fad in the last decade to becoming mainstream. Before singing hosannas for every new technological marvel that shimmers on the horizon, we should ask ourselves the question whether it has any advantages or disadvantages.
There is hardly anything in the world that is without disadvantages, except Almighty Allah (swt), who is free of any blemish or fault or weakness.
To analyze a thing fairly requires the judicious use of the reasoning mind. The mind is a creature of acquired habits and customs, developed in the company of friends, relatives and peers; influences on our mind are also shaped by learning in schools and colleges. These impressions are either rejected or reinforced by our family background and intimate circle of friends. Sometimes it is necessary to make, sometimes, a positive “imprinting” to our friends, to encourage them to co-operate or do better in life. Imprinting is a psychological term which means giving positive feedback to children, as a mother strokes her child, or cleans his face. This is known as positive imprinting in psychology.
It is sometimes necessary to de-condition our minds by the myriad influences, in the light of Qur’an and Sunnah, to arrive at the most appropriate response to a situation, a problem or even a personal choice. (A hadith says ‘istafti qalbak’ “).
We are so much swayed by the barnacles that we carry that it becomes sometimes difficult to make a fair assessment of a situation, a career choice or a promising venture. We might see things negatively and find the glass half empty, while from an optimistic point of view, we might, gradually come to realize, that the glass is half full.
Now coming back to online education, people talk about it as if it were the answer to all the ills that plague our education system. There are, no doubt, advantages in online learning. There is no need for a teacher to be present, no need to attend classes, seminars or management sessions. There is no need to go through the pedestrian grind of catching buses or commuting back and forth between residence and lecture hall or tailoring classes.
We sit in our comfort zones before a computer screen, and as if by magic, maths equations and algebraic problems tumble on our laps and are unspooled, for our benefit, by information-obsessed and nifty teachers.
But where have we lost, the personal touch, the imagination fertilized by experience that some good teachers, a few decades ago, imparted to their students? Where have we lost the glair of interpersonal relationships, that made teachers visit their students’ homes to enquire about their health or other problems, in case they were absent from class?
Where have we lost the close bond between teachers and the taught, that made some of them even pay for their tuition fees, without the blinking of an eye, or disclosing it to anyone?
In today’s parlance, it was the offline impinging on the online. Now the online casuistry consumes so much of our time, that we are held in thrall by its blandishments, so that instead of students we become teachers, we become internet trolls, looking for momentary affirmations on facebook, twitter, whatsapp and so on and so forth to whatsnot. Welcome to be jaded by the protean world of the internet!
It is just it happened in the case when TV entered and started ruling on our lives; once we buy the TV we can hardly control the multitude of graphic impression s that hold sway over our lives that precious hours are lost every day which could be spent in more meaningful pursuits such as reading or indulging in physical exercise, meeting friends and even chatting with wives or friends.
Similarly, an online learning system opens many doors, but it is unstructured, time-wise and activity-wise, so that we spend more time in frivolous chats on social media. rather than filch time for any meaningful engagement with ourselves (for introspection) or with family and friends and even society at large. It is bereft of that personal touch that can make people change. It is impersonal, gushing forth figures and images, as if on cue, with no personal anecdotes, clarifications or even a joke. It makes us too sedentary, even as it engages our minds and sights with visual brilliance.
Do not consider me as a Cassandra. I am not against online learning. I am only considering the shearing away of earlier possibilities by the new entrant.
Salman is being hoisted by the media as the new online guru. The best part of his easy-to-learn maths, comprising of quadratic equations and the arcane world of numbers– that prefigure touch-and-go–and which all appear Greek and Latin to those brought up in the humane environs of the humanities, is that he does not charge any fees. He has already made enough money for himself.
A TOI report said that”…. Salman was a hedge fund analyst after his Harvard MBA before switching off. He could have raked in riches when he opted to give himself a $2,000 per month salary to bring ideas to education. Has he decided to massage his ego or salve his conscience, after he made a lot of money as a hedge fund analyst, making up for lost time and opportunities? Only Allah (swt) knows what is in the hearts of people.
His educational website (khanacademy.org) opens up a wonderland of maths for students anywhere in the world who want to go online.
What are the options in the field of education? They offer a cornucopia of choices for those willing to join the education sector. The sector is not confined to teaching and taught as in the decades past, but new options are open in the digital age. But as discussed earlier the distance between teacher and student has widened leading to non-personal interaction.
For the administrative side of education there are many options such as counseling, managing student affairs, college and hostel administration.
On the academic side there are several options for research and faculty exchange programmes. Research is intellectual adventure. But now this adventure has become more arduous. As the research approach, especially in science sinks below to the atomic and sub-atomic level, large amounts of money and collaboration between scholars of universities from different countries is required. The funding requirement are so huge, except the very rich countries, and poorer ones such as India, Asia , Africa and the Middle East cannot afford to allocate billions of dollars for any particular project.
The difficulty is two-fold: intensive research at the cutting edge of science demands a higher intellection and so collaboration between scholars has become the rule rather than the exception. Secondly, such minute and painstaking research requires large amounts of money, which except the very rich countries in the West, others either do not have them or are averse to allocate them.
With several stakeholders, the education sector is a domain wherein people with different skill sets can easily be employed. So what are the areas that can be explored by a job seeker in the education sector? An expert in education and skill development said “ There are different levels of employment in this sector and the educators, primarily the teachers and their supervisors, who form about a 10 per cent of the workforce required in this sector, need a predefined qualification. Besides them, the other stakeholders in this sector include food, providers, trip planners, travel co-ordinators, operators, content generating partners, infrastructure providers, technology providers and dress designers.
To foster research in education there are faculty exchange programmes, national/international conferences and research collaborations with the industry and foreign universities, fellowships of prestigious societies, special grants and incentives for research and a lot more.
An expert in HR functions and people management said” Although still at a nascent stage, people management is extremely crucial even in the education sector. It is imperative for the HR leaders to understand that to attract high quality talent, we need to give the professionals an environment of freedom and transparency.”