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The Ins, The Outs and The Affordance to Online Learning

The Online Learning ecosystem has already undergone a visible transformation in recent years, but the platforms have not fully embraced in Nepal. With evolving technologies and shifting priorities, the traditional approach to Learning is hard to compete with modern learners’ needs. Effective learning techniques must be thought of and implemented. This discussion, therefore, seeks to analyze more on the Ins, Outs, and Affordability to Online Learning in today’s world.

The second-panel discussion comprised of panelists; Mr. Parag Shrestha, Director, Fuse Classroom; Mr. Narottam Aryal, President, King’s College, and Mr. Pavitra Bahadur Gautam, CEO at Karkhana and Moderator; Ms. Sushila Shrestha, Operations Manager at Glocal Pvt. Ltd.

Ms. Shrestha started the session by introducing the scenario of online learning in Nepal and highlighted the aim of discussion to come up with the ways to make Online learning affordable.

Figure: Speakers of the 2nd discussion on The Ins, The Outs, and Affordance of Online Learning.

Moderator: What would be interactive online learning for all of you?

Mr. Shrestha highlighted his perspective about online digital learning and added that that focus should be on the content and platform that ensures interaction. Online digital is a new modality in Nepal. There is different interaction in the online education prospective. Firstly, the online content; the content must be rich and later need to figure out ways to make content interactive. Secondly, it’s about the platform; how can the digital platform make interactive in terms of reminders, announcements, and undemand kind of help. Learning happens not just in a classroom or not just in a place, but it happens everywhere. These both aspects; interactive of content, richness, and interactive at the features of the platform that is delivering on the content must be thoughtful to the education perspective. Thus, online learning can be very interactive.

Mr. Gautam addressed his point regarding online or offline learning; each frame is important. The 3E’s standard framework which is Engagement, Exploration, and Exhibition important role in the learning process. As he mentioned some examples regarding these three aspects. Firstly, engagement in the learning process is necessary. Until and unless if you are not properly engaged, it’s difficult to learn anything. When it comes to empathic, it refers to understanding the relationship between students and a facilitator in an online medium. Secondly, an exploration comes from various mediums. Learning must be very physical which helps to make exploration rich. Not only experiences but a lot of exploration can be done to the discussion. There should be the plenty amount of learning process which is important. Thirdly, learning is never complete without a proper reflection or a proper exhibition. The exhibition could be presentations, assignments, or feedback from students or teachers.

May be online or offline, interactive learning should involve Engagement, Exploration, and Exhibition. In an online medium, more online engagement is limited. Eventually, ideas, assignments, and different discussion platforms make the online learning system interactive.

Moderator: You have been in the sector of STEM learning for school kids. How do you find the shift or conjunction of convention education to online education? 

Mr. Gautam clarified the term “STEM”- is not a different subject, it’s just an approach or methodology of combining all these different ideas into a single set. Also, he clearly defined Science and technology express through the engineering and arts with the language of mathematics. So, stream education is not different through which we look at the educational experience. Learning only through the stream is limited, until and unless the learning goes beyond the stream.

Figure: Mr. Pavitra Bahadur Gautam, CEO at Karkhana

More and more we use the digital tools that expand our capacity to express high-quality material, high-quality instructors, and high-quality platforms. He expressed his thought that technology can never replace a good teacher. It can always meet a teacher barrier that supports. When a good teacher combines good technological intervention than it’s limitless. He addressed challenging points regarding stream, explained online learning opportunities, and added parent’s responsibilities to children for their online learning.

Moderator: Within the learning ecosystem, what kind of gaps or barriers do you witness, and what are the factors that are limiting this shift?

Mr. Shrestha agreed to the points on what Mr. Gautam said regarding Karkhana being thoughtful in terms of advantages and challenges. It’s essential to address every move rock. Without change, comes challenges as well. In some ways, Mr. Shrestha explained that the learning ecosystem is most likely to head towards a dual-modality. Hopefully, we get back to normal. Within the concept of a new normal, the thing that lacks is human connection. Ultimately technology is just a platform. The ways to elaborate, adopt the platform, and make it accessible and inclusive is important. If we combine these properly, a dual-modality has lots of possibilities.

He added that the greater challenges in Nepal for digitization is infrastructure. We need internet devices, connectivity which is normally accessible in urban. But those people in rural areas may not have the same accessibility. Therefore, proper plans should be made to collaborate and contribute to addressing these challenges. Some discounted data packages of the internet by NTC & Ncell, a public-private partnership of government, infrastructure development are some ways. The biggest strength to cope up with these challenges can be bringing all stakeholders together.

Figure: Mr. Parag Shrestha, Director, Fuse Classroom

He said we need to digitize and develop an interactive, holistic approach, and provide engagement in the community which ultimately builds up a momentum and we will redirect, as we go long. The challenges need to be addressed at the national level. Technology is here getting cheaper, therefore stakeholders coming together to develop online learning configuration can add great value. The present scenario needs to be visualized through the Opportunity perspective and create a healthy balance of physical and virtual learning.

Moderator: There is a perception that Skills cannot be developed via online, it needs to have physical schooling for skills, how do you take it as Karkhana has been working with schools’ students in enabling them for STEM Skills?

Mr. Gautam shared the whole concept of learning to be dependent on skills. There are certain skills difficult to improve via online. In the present context, the digital collaboration skills in people are increasing, but dialogue, debate, critical thinking skills have limitations as the amount of communication we do is limited. There are some challenges as well as benefits being in this kind of environment. Many learning resources are available online for free, online courses have become more affordable. Digital learning is developing better than the physical environment in skills.

The skills are important today and tomorrow as the world will be more and more digital. As digitization is concerned, there will be some blend between the physical and digital worlds. One needs to critically think about what kind of learning environment is needed. There are still some places in Nepal where there are no digital facilities available. He stated Education must be viewed as a spectrum.

In schools, they have planned to teach students from primary level a basic AI. This will create an environment to produce good programmers in the future. There is a need for technological intervention in the learning environment to ensure effective learning.

Moderator: How is it possible to make the schools digital so that we are ready to cope with such pandemic situations, and how can we keep on enabling?

Mr. Gautam urged that we must figure out the socio-economic background, the demography of the children. If we are talking about Kathmandu, Pokhara, or places where there is the affordability of technology, there would not be difficult to move in the digital platform. Whereas in other places, we must be very careful about digital engagement. We need to understand and empathize with the situation.

He added education is different than other sectors; In other sectors, there is a provider and receiver. But in education, it is complicated because there are different kinds of demographics; there are teachers, parents, students, and school management. To manage the four elements (teacher, parents, students, school management,) of proper dynamics is challenging. These four elements need to be ready to go digital. He said without the proper engagement of parents, a good education experience is not possible.

Finally, he addressed challenging points regarding online learning. We must be aware of digital education with digital literacy, digital citizenship, and cybersecurity. He also focused his points on online safety, digital distraction on online learning, children’s participation in Digital learning, and eligibilities that comes within.

Moderator: You will have been practicing online education with a mix of classroom learning for quite two years nowadays. Let’s say blending learning how do you see this development taking shape?

Mr.Aryal shared, “We see the technology has been practicing around the world but not be adopted or accepted in the context of Nepal. The pandemic crisis has helped to initiate the learning platform”. He stated a quote –“Necessity is the mother of invention”; the creative efforts need to implement to learn and adapt; the adaption also increases and has a lot of opportunities. He said technology makes education more affordable and accessible.

Figure: Mr. Narottam Aryal, President, King’s College

He addressed we should think of how we can take technology in benefits; what could be a better alternative direction, and this may help to accomplish great opportunity.

Moderator: Those online learning comes with more cost or does it make effective learning efficient cost. What are your views on that?

Mr. Aryal said we can make online learning cost-effective, and efficient. In our society, there are different needs of people, different conditions of people and for these; different solutions are important. Some might prefer physical learning. So, there is no need to replace on-campus learning, yet can still co-exist. Some might be interested in blended learning as well. Some might be interested to take classes online. These kinds of engagement can be an open option for students. Kathmandu is more developed for the latest knowledge and skills. But this boundary can be dismantled now with the use of e-learning. Technological interventions in learning are a need. There are wide opportunities, lots of potentials.

Moderator: Can we make parents engage in class on a particular topic?

Mr. Gautam shared that the parents are the prime facilitator who can take care of students. Parents can be engaged skillfully in lower grades. They can be also involved in guiding the students in technological use and applications.

Moderator: What are the ways to enhance the online learning practice in the country?

Mr. Parag Shrestha in conclusion shared that the ultimate approach should be to identify the perspective and it is important. In basic, he explained that technology is just a platform, but its effective utilization brings lots of opportunities. To enhance online learning practice, all the stakeholders should come together to develop.  He said that it is most important to bring the latest technology in the education sector. Physical education can co-exist and has opportunities. Globally education is going to be redefined, which doesn’t mean it replaces the physical world but will grow eventually during the time.

Mr. Aryal added that government policies need to address the education context in the country. Rural digitization needs to be carried out and lastly, the use of technology is the other way. It was really an amazing discussion on ways to make Online Learning affordable in developing the eco-system of learning.