For Kiran, a part-time social studies teacher in Kathmandu, the past few months have been really boring. After a hiatus of almost two years, he has to wake up again in the early morning, study for an hour, eat a quick breakfast and leave the house as soon as the other family members aren’t even awake.
“The last two years have been fun in a way thanks to online education practices. You could teach all the classes from the comfort of your bed,” complains Kiran, who does not want to be identified by his middle name. here, “but it didn’t last long.
Kiran believes that schools and colleges in Nepal, at least in Kathmandu and other urban centers, should adopt online education as the norm now as already proven possible. “Plus, it’s easy for teachers and students. On the institutional side, it cuts costs,” he says, “What else made you abandon the online education system?
The Covid outbreak in early 2020 affected almost every sector in Nepal. This caused people to change their way of life. It has changed the way of working in all sectors. The education sector has also moved online, with most academic institutions in different parts of the country hosting virtual classrooms. They also hosted the exams and ECAs online, making people like Kiran feel like they do today.
Therefore, there have been discussions about making online education the regular teaching method rather than the casual method. Educators and stakeholders support the proposal but point out that some reforms are essential.
Perspectives of the new pedagogy
Bidya Nath Koirala, an educator and former head of the Department of Education at Tribhuvan University, supports the proposal to make online education a standard for educational institutions.
“We must immediately launch online courses on a regular basis. The new generation is tech savvy and online courses can be an effective method to make things understandable,” says Koirala.
“Online education technology can give students access to global context.”
Koirala, however, believes that to make virtual classrooms effective, teachers should primarily focus on their teaching methodology. They must avoid the masterful method that is implemented during physical lessons.
He urges teachers to explore the features of virtual platforms that would make lessons productive and effective. Koirala has also seen teachers who have effectively managed online classes. These teachers are well-known and knowledgeable about ways to make virtual classrooms productive.
People complain that the course structures that Nepal practices are not suitable online, but Koirala contradicts this. He says, “It’s up to teachers to make existing courses available online.”
It is true that online education does not have a long history in Nepal. But, thanks to Covid, you can’t pretend it’s completely new and society isn’t in favor of it.
Moreover, the oldest university in the country, Tribhuvan University started offering online courses in 2015, informs Ganga Ram Gautam, the head of the Open and Distance Learning Center at the TU.
Even before the pandemic, the university was holding some classes virtually in two programs: master’s in English and master’s in mathematics. After the pandemic, it was steadily expanded to more than 15 programs.
Online classes at TU run daily or once or twice a week, depending on the course and program.
According to Gautam, virtual classrooms are progressive and productive, but there are still two main challenges.
“There are still a lot of students and teachers who are not in favor of technology and virtual methods,” says Gautam. “Similarly, in many parts of the country, there is no proper broadband connection, which deprives many students of online education.”
The notion of mixed pedagogy
Educator Laxman Gnawali, who is also the chairman of Kathmandu University’s school management committee, also agrees with Koirala regarding the operation of online courses.
In addition, he speaks of mixed pedagogy to respond to the concerns raised by Gautam.
“Students should be involved in both online and physical classes,” says Gnawali. “Since online courses alone cannot all address all courses, physical courses must also be delivered in parallel.”
Co-educational classes facilitate learning activities, he adds.
Furthermore, Gnawali urges relevant bodies to provide training to teachers and students to make them literate on online courses. He wants students and teachers to be user-friendly with the features available on virtual platforms.
“Students and teachers should know about the features of virtual platforms that relate to animation, video, interactive quizzes and all other features that would make online education systems dynamic and productive,” says Gnawali.
Thereupon, he also advises the concerned authority to work on the development of IT infrastructure and ensure that all needy students have access to learning facilities.
This means that teachers like Kiran can hope that their wishes will come true in the next few years.