Online education amid the coronavirus
I am sure that all the technology journalists have always been volunteer promoters of online learning. For me, e-learning has always represented equality. Why should a child get a worse education than another, just because they were born in a different country or city? Equality in getting the best education possible is what will save the world.
Now, with the coronavirus crisis, we see that it is not only a nice-to-have but a must-have in our global world order. Everybody has started to talk about online classes as the epidemic spreads. In the United States, Harvard, MIT, Cornell and many other universities are asking students to leave campus even if they are from other countries. All their classes have either been canceled or replaced by online courses.
“The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly,” Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said in a statement. “The goal of these changes is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, dining halls and residential buildings.”
Duke University, which is currently on spring break, has asked all undergraduate, graduate and professional students not to return to campus, if at all possible. Duke has suspended in-person classes “until further notice” and plans to begin remote instruction March 23.
Many pundits say Turkey should do the same. I agree in principle, but I believe that online education is not simply about loading the class notes onto a website or recording and playing the lesson at your convenience. It is much more than that.
Its basic definition is as follows: “Online education is electronically supported learning that relies on the internet for teacher/student interaction and the distribution of class materials.”
It really sounds simple but in fact, it is one of the hardest things to do online. The content should be very different than regular education, in which the presence of the teacher keeps you focused on the material under discussion. If you just film the teacher and post it on YouTube, it will not have the same affect, and you will find it very hard to concentrate and understand the lesson.
There are many web sites like Udemy, which was founded by two brilliant Turkish people, Eren Bali and Oktay Çağlar, who are trying to perfect the notion of e-learning. Usually, classes on Udemy include various animations, extra reading materials, online tests, animations and the like.
Furthermore, starting online lessons will require investments in technology. You need a steady broadband internet connection, and you need to have a strong server presence.
Therefore, moving toward virtual/online learning cannot be achieved overnight. There is a startup called KURSLAB which provides the school with the necessary online education platform. They could be utilized in the crisis.
Perhaps Turkey is late in turning to virtual classes for the current health crisis, but if we start to prepare now, we can take the necessary precautions the next time.