“Change is the end result of all true learning.” But what happens when learning in itself goes through a sudden change?
Today, our education system has gone through a paradigm shift not just in terms of resources and content, but also in terms of mode. E-books replaced the hardcovers, Google Classrooms replaced project files, tablet screens replaced whiteboards, and classroom interaction replaced by virtual meetings.
Today, the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted many sectors, including the educational area. Among many casualties of COVID-19, there is also demise of the traditional classrooms. While online courses have existed even before the pandemic, they served a different purpose to learners, like granting them accessibility to modules in case they do not have means or supplementing what individuals were taught in physical classrooms. Online mode was never meant to be the fundamental mode of learning back then.
Social distancing guidelines and lockdowns, however, have made online classrooms the primary source of educational instruction for students of all ages. Sugarcoating the ongoing situation doesn’t help or make it any easier for us: online learning is just hard; Period. Education is meant to be passed through human connection. The very first form of education was storytelling: people all around the world have told stories as a way of passing down knowledge, history, beliefs, and traditions. Stories are at the heart of all that makes us human. While the platform of online learning is incredibly helpful, it takes away what we as humans are made for social thinking, positive relationships, and authentic connection.
Just as human beings have a basic need for food and shelter, we also have a fundamental need to belong to a group and form relationships. The desire to be in a loving relationship, to fit in at school, to avoid rejection, to be well-liked, to have fun with friends, to get along with family, and to check in on social media — these things motivate most of our thoughts, actions, and feelings. Life is complicated, humans are complex, and it is no small feat to go from traditional education to online education.
So, getting overwhelmed by the sudden transition is natural, and you are not alone in this.
I want to share a few of the anecdotes of my college life where I discovered education is much more than ‘classroom lessons.’ In college, most of the skills I have learned have not come from the lectures themselves, but conversations and stories from my peers and professors. Walking back to my dorm after an interesting lecture or just hanging out with peers at the cafeteria always resulted in some form of debate with my peers. My dorm mates had different majors: computer science, mechanical, civil, electrical, counseling, mathematics, business, and politics. So, every night while we ate dinner together, I would learn something new about one of those fields that I would have never learned otherwise. All this to say, it is completely understandable to feel overwhelmed with the transition to online learning, because it is something new for us, and probably implies the loss of other things in our lives as well.
But like every coin has two sides, there are bright aspects to this transition as well, which cannot be ignored. Online education facilitates on-time learning, degree, and timely completion, of course, without any delay or gap. It’s a matter of our good fortune that you born in the digital age where you have resources and means to derive the benefit of online education.
Online education have their share of perks. It offers ‘flexibility’ as you can learn at your own pace with the help of recorded videos. It also caters to your comfort level and enables you to study from your home. It is also amusing to see that online education is becoming an affordable affair for lots of people who spend tons of money on daily commuting, baby sitters, food consumption as it saves lots of these expenses.
Online education has also proven to be a boon for people who were craving for some ‘me time’ amidst this hustle-bustle of life. This could be a great time to work on getting regular sleep, regular exercise, healthy nutrition, and getting regular work hours. We can finally enjoy that hobby that we never got around to. I recommend you set aside specific times to study/work. Embrace the best parts, even in this new format. Make sure your peers know that you care about them. Find meaningful and unique ways to connect with people at this time. Your resiliency towards this testing phase will surely take you in a forward path of success when everything restores to normalcy.
Finally, remember that no matter how bad the storm is, it will always pass. The author Barbara Brown Taylor writes,
“I give thanks for even the semi-terrible things that have happened to me since they have shown me what is real. They have made me tell the truth. They have quashed all my illusions of control, leaving me no choice but to receive my life as an unmitigated gift.”
This letting go of “normal” is going to teach us more than we know.