The educational institutes that are planning to reach out to the students of semi-rural and rural areas need to be extra prepared to roll out ‘online education’ carpet. With the objective to check the status of online connectivity of the students, Gopakumar V. and team decided to carry out a survey on the preparedness of the students for online education to be offered by Goa University from the next academic year. The survey gave insights as how important it is for an educational institute to be prepared to reach out the students online despite having common assumptions about hurdles in technological infrastructure in terms of reach, accessibility, bandwidth, usage, etc. They found that such survey gives right insights as to how effectively the online education can be implemented covering almost all learners.
The video conferencing applications and online tools are throwing a lifeline to the educational institutes these days than ever before. The educational institutes ought to plan out and act seriously for the possible ‘perpetual dependency’ on the technology. This we are experimenting in the present times. Now, it is imminent for educational institutes to embrace technology and gradually shift their teaching and learning activities online as one has to resort to internet technology either to facilitate education or use it.
Taking serious note of the ongoing trend in online education, Goa University decided to go for ‘online education’ from next academic year to avoid complete dependency on classroom teaching. To make this a ‘policy-driven’ initiative, Goa University decided to strongly rely on the survey and its findings to take the necessary step. Basically, the survey intended to check the infrastructure availability in terms of devices the students use, connectivity, affordability, speed, etc. and thus devise a strategic plan for facilitating online education.
Over 550 responses received from the students of all streams studying in Goa University who are almost from North Goa District comprising Tiswadi, Bardez, Salcette and Ponda Talukas. These four Talukas make up 64.5% of the students and the other 8 talukas have only 34.5%. The findings are:
- Over 98% respondents have power connection in their houses and 94% of them have got access to the internet. However, Internet connectivity is not that good in Dharbandora, Bicholim and Pernem.
- The majority (80%) of the respondents uses their mobile devices to get connected to the Internet and 33% of students use both mobile and laptop. In a way, it is a drawback as mobile devices are not that suitable for e-learning and ‘constant use’ could become a health issue.
- Jio remains the most favored internet service provider than Vodafone. The responses reveal that the state-owned BSNL has less takers (5%). However, the majority (74%) of the respondents were unsatisfied with the speed of the Internet. The Internet speed in rural areas is relatively slow and is enough to access social networking sites only. A taluka wise assessment on the speed of Internet shows that Dharbandora, Sanguem, Canacona, and Quepem have got slower connectivity.
- It was also found that a student spends on an average ₹ 353 per month (nearly $5) to access Internet and this amount slightly varies when it comes to students of different streams. The monthly spending by users of BSNL is to the tune of ₹ 620 (less than $9) per month. From this, it can be inferred that the students are happy with relatively slow connections of Jio and Vodafone due to less money they need to spend.
- As many as 487 students were using WhatsApp whereas 344 were using Instagram and almost 245 were using Facebook.
- The matter of concern is- how best students understand and use MOOCs and LMS (Learning Management System) platforms. The survey specifically intended to know this aspect and it was found that 25% of the students have used MOOC platforms and half of the respondents know about LMS platform. This calls for training in the use of LMS and MOOCs as the university would certainly be opting to connect resources and users. It was also found that majority of them have also not attended webinars of educational use.
These findings underline the need to orient as to how best they can be connected, what devices are ideal to access resources, how effectively they need to use MOOCs, LMS and other content management platforms as they would be mainly using them.
Impediments and possibilities
The major impediment in e-learning is the slow internet connectivity especially in remote areas. The state of Goa is not an exception to this. Goa can establish an Optical Fiber Network in the state dedicated for governance, education and industry. As the Electricity Department in Goa has strong presence in almost all the places of the state so if maintenance of the Optical Fiber Network is given to it, Internet can reach almost all. The government, industry, and educational institutes will get maximum benefit, whereas we can provide the students comparatively low-cost connectivity to students. This also will bring down the monopoly of some of the Internet Service Providers in the state and they will be forced to reduce their rates.
The findings reveal that mobile devices are widely used to connect to the University/resources and to shift to desktops/laptops or any user-friendly low-cost devices- it calls for government/university intervention as to how best facility can they provide in a subsidised cost.
The educational institutes across the globe are gearing up to make online education the new norm. The successful implementation requires taking stock of ground realities in terms of technological reach, acceptability, connectivity, affordability, etc.
- The institute needs to ensure that students have laptops or desktops at the time of admission itself in the forthcoming years. The government may be requested to provide a subsidized /EMI based supply of laptops to postgraduate students.
- Training to teachers in developing e-Learning modules.
- Establishment of an Optical Fiber Network for Goa.
- The students are better informed about digital technology, and introducing e-learning would not be a big challenge before the university. It may proceed implementing e-learning provided the communication system should be strengthened to make e-learning effective.
One thing the education institutes should underline is that a sudden shift to online education should well be led by the findings of the survey (it carries out). It is to test as to how best learners are ready to use the technology. This survey not only leads to plan perfectly and reach out to learners online but also helps how university, faculty and entire policy making process calls for a super shift. In fact, any insight an education institute gets through a survey—it is worth implementing in the larger interest of the learners.
Note: Views expressed are personal. This article is licensed under Creative Commons: CC-BY
About the author
Gopakumar V. is University Librarian of Goa University, India. He has served in different academic institutions and has rich experience of academic librarianship. He was instrumental in initiating UG and PG courses in library and information science at Goa University. He has been serving the library community as a trainer, speaker, author, research supervisor and organizer. He has a great interest in photography. Email: gopan[@]unigoa.ac.in