Evolving for the ‘new normal’ of learning

Salalah: At a time when there is an effort to adjust with the ‘new normal’ amid the opening of offices and businesses, education is one sector where no one wants to take chance due to the volume of young people involved in it. It requires lots of planning to implement the pandemic code for an actual class to begin. Remote learning thus is the ‘new normal’ for the sector for the time being.

Communication experts are weighing the pros and cons of this ‘new normal’ while finding a way to adjust and let the process of learning settle at a pace that suits both – the receiver and the provider.

Dr Samskrati Gulvady

Dr Samskrati Gulvady, an expert in mass communication, calls the situation ‘a paradox of conveniences and challenges’ and cites Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan, who says, “The new media are not bridges between man and nature – they are nature… The new media are not ways of relating us to the old world, they are the real world and they reshape what remains of the old world at will.” McLuhan, according to her, must have foreseen the world when he said these words in the late 1960s.

The current scenario has redefined many things by bringing a wide range of opportunities and challenges. These experiments are widely seen in educational institutions.

In an interview with the Observer, she said, “The concept of ‘distance learning’ has now become ‘remote learning’ where a student engages in learning within the comforts of the house without the need to travel long distances. But they are missing the campus relationships because online classrooms are seen to be more formal than the actual ones.”
Academicians who are used to traditional classroom teaching involving face to face communication can deliver content based on the response and interaction of the students in the class. In a virtual classroom, there is a reduction in social and contextual cues and tangible feedback.

Important aspects of non-verbal communication like the tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, postures, and other body language components help enhance our actions and interactions.

There is an option of using ‘emojis’ in certain electronic platforms to respond nonverbally, but it cannot match the responses of a traditional classroom. In comparison to face to face learning, online learning brings forth significant deficiencies like lack of human connect, absence of opportunities of collaborative learning, teacher supervision, she says.

She calls for evolving methods for hands-on learning in specialised courses if this ‘new normal’ is here to stay for long.

Education, according to DrGulvady, definitely has unparalleled opportunities to monitor and improve its practices. “We as academicians have new ways to communicate with our students. We monitor and intervene in student learning to increase the effectiveness of both teaching and learning. Similarly, students have new ways to find, retrieve, and share their learning products and opportunities. However, all these advantages and opportunities come with cost-reduced privacy, security, and surveillance,” she said.