Schools & Colleges Moving From Online To Physical Classes…What Do Students & Moms Feel About This Change?

I started physical classes in Singapore last year. In India, they are just starting, so I ask students & moms what they feel about this massive change!

After I completed Class 12 in 2020, I was all excited to begin a new phase of my life– university. Then the pandemic arrived, confined us all to our homes, and introduced us to a world of online learning. While I was able to resume in-person classes soon in Singapore (I am currently an undergraduate student of Economics) in October 2020, my friends in India were still experiencing virtual learning.

It was only now that some of them will start going to school and college again after 2 years of online learning. This made me wonder what it was like for them to go back to physical classes once again after a long period and if it felt different? How would this transition impact mothers? I spoke to some school and college-going students to understand what their transition felt like and how they were coping with it. A report:

Education has been a sector that has been massively transformed by the pandemic. With lockdown, virtual/online learning had to be adapted in early 2020, to cope with this new change. However, with our gradual progression to normalcy, educational institutions have once again opened up or are preparing to open physical classes.

With yet another change happening in their academic lives, we spoke to school and college-going students to understand how they were responding to this transition back to the new normal and how they were coping with it.

‘We were all shocked to hear about going back to physical classes after a significantly long period of virtual learning’

Students had been accustomed to online lessons and certain elements of it like online exams and presentations. There were some concerns about getting back to physical classes again and how the entire experience would be. Would all the safety measures be followed?

“We were all shocked to hear it after a significantly long period of virtual learning,” said Adhya Goyal, a high-school student

But it was also a huge relief for some students. Tara Raghuram, who is currently in Class 11 felt, “While online classes can simply be attended from home, thus eliminating the need for travel to school or college, it is at times hard for to stay focused, looking at a screen constantly. Physical classes have always been the normal. Knowing that we would be getting back to offline school was happy news!”

Are physical classes better than  virtual learning?

Students felt that while virtual learning may have helped to compensate for the loss of physical classes to a certain extent in some subjects, others like lab classes demand in-person attendance. Besides, being in a physical classroom with other students could also be more effective in terms of staying attentive and participating more.

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“I think the effects of both virtual and offline learning are also dependent on the student and the subjects that they are studying,” said Nidhi, an undergraduate student. Physical classes allow one to take a break from constant screen time and can improve learning in some practical subjects.

However, the hybrid mode of part-physical and part-online classes, may be the way to go for a while, with the pandemic situation evolving constantly. “Physical classes combined with online learning, while following all the necessary safety protocols, might be here to stay until the end of the pandemic,” said another college student.

‘In-person physical classes feel much more personal for all of us’

“The in-person mode is what we have been used to all these years,” said Tara. “To be back to it again, with scheduled breaks and in an environment with other students does make it easier to handle long hours of class.”

The physical classes experience made students feel like they were part of thriving environment with other people, and made them oblivious to how fast the day passed.

Offline physical classes also helped facilitate greater interactions in a classroom and made it easier to ask questions. They also ensured that students were able to follow lessons better and that teachers and students stayed on the same page.

“In-person classes feel much more personal for all of us.” Tara admitted, “We interact much more and thus teachers can understand where exactly we struggle and accordingly provide help in that area. It definitely  increases the quality of the learning process.”

“In-person classes have also especially helped with subjects oriented to practical learning like languages, theatre, etc.” said Pooja Venkatesh, a university undergrad. “We could understand the subject better and appreciate it much more. Offline physical classes have also helped to get the actual, holistic school or college experience.”

‘With physical classes, we once again have to make arrangements to travel to our institutions which is exhausting at times’

Students were also resuming classes in a pandemic setting and this meant an additional concern. “We all did have worries as to how we were going to sit in a classroom and learn, with masks on and following all the protocols,” Tara said. “It’s a setting we are not used to at all.”

“With offline classes, we once again have to make arrangements to travel to our institutions which is exhausting at times.” Nidhi said. “With online classes, even if we were feeling tired or unwell, we could still attend the classes since we could take them from the comfort of home. That could more or less ensure we never had to miss what was taught.”

Attending virtual lessons for several months had led to establishing a certain routine that everyone had been following for a while. “They could be attended right from home, but offline education now means travelling to school and college and to different classes in an actual physical setting, which is a change,” said Adhya who is soon to start offline classes once again.

However, Nidhi who has been attending in-person lessons, felt that the actual process of transition was experienced when classes moved from physical to online. “In-person physical classes were what we had always been used to unlike online learning. Once again resuming physical classes wasn’t entirely different as it was something we have already experienced.”

But institutions have helped with the transition phase by progressing into the online mode gradually. Many have adopted a hybrid mode or alternated between weeks of online and offline classes.

What does back to physical classes mean for mothers?

Does the impact of schools and colleges re-opening end with the students? Not at all! With childcare largely being the responsibility of women, mothers will be a part of the transition as well.

With many institutions adopting a hybrid mode or offering the choice to attend physical lessons, mothers will still experience the effects of both online and offline classes. Online classes means that they are required to watch over their children, especially if they are young and ensure that they are able to learn and not distracted. The problem becomes much more complicated if the mothers are working.

Roopa Koelho, mother to a 4th grader, feels that it’s best that kids attend physical classes for “overall development”.

While parents would like their kids to attend physical classes, the choice is not so easy in this pandemic. Offline education has caused massive worry regarding the safety of the students in a classroom full of others. Besides once students start going to physical classes, mothers may also have to adjust their own routines and juggle jobs, to help kids get ready for school or college, drop them off if needed and ensure that they are safe and sound.

Says Nimisha Bhatt (name changed on request) a working mom, “I really don’t understand the hurry to open physical classes. My husband and I are vaccinated and our offices are still online. The kids are not even vaccinated. Also it will be a problem to pick and drop as the bus service has not started. That responsibility will also fall on moms.”

For the mothers, I believe this new change means that they have to plan and organize their duties even more than before.

Image sources: Image on left by Startup Stock Photos, Pexels, Image on right still from film Gippy


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