City shools have started surveys, data collection and poll responses to understand aspects of online education and methods to overcome challenges in e-learning. School authorities claim the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled them to initiate new concepts of teaching-learning as teachers, parents and students are apprehensive about online education.

On one hand, state-board schools are conducting regular webinars and training for teachers while on the other, private-board schools have started digital classes on a daily basis. A principal of a state-board school in Andheri said, “Our teachers are not familiar with virtual classes. More than students, our teachers are facing several challenges such as absence of efficient WiFi speed, internet access, interactive modules of lessons, class monitoring and time management.”

Online education is an alternative not a replacement, claimed Francis Joseph, co-founder of School Leaders Network, a think tank which had suggested a standard operating procedure to schools and the government considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Joseph said, “The time-table and ways of teaching in regular schools cannot be used when we shift to online education. Schools can reduce classrooms to a minimum number of students because 30 students per online class is still difficult to manage. Schools should make smaller groups because there are no space constraints in online education as this can help teachers in online classroom management.”

Teachers of private-board schools revealed they are using “Mute all” button in online education which discourages the basic purpose of student interaction. Manda Kamadh, a teacher of an ICSE board school said, “I have a tendency to use the mute all key so that students can listen without any interruption. But unlike regular classroom teaching, this does not allow any student to talk or raise a question while I am explaining concepts. It destroys the purpose of an interactive class as students have to wait till the end to raise queries.”

Parents have to monitor students because in online eduaction the control is with students, said Rakesh Lal, a teacher of a CBSE board school. Lal said, “Students can simply put the camera on and not pay attention. Technology has several hacks and students may tend to lose attention if they are not monitored by parents.”

Joseph added, “Screen time is another major hurdle which governments, schools, teachers and parents are worried about. The pedagogy of online education is completely different as classroom management skills vary in online teaching.”

While private-board schools have shifted to online teaching, some state-board schools aim to start regular classes in green zone areas. A district education officer, said, “Online education is not feasible in some rural areas and remote districts of Maharashtra due to lack of internet accessibility, computers or smartphones and advanced technology. We wil try and maintain physical distancing norms, use masks, hand sanitisers and work in shifts.”