Who thought that students could be pressured to look into smart devices for hours by their parents and teachers? This pandemic has changed many preconceived notions and introduced everyone to a new normal instead. Although almost all the activities in Bangladesh have begun at a full pace, students are still stuck in an endless loop. They are facing a dead end in the form of online classes.
Digitalisation in Bangladesh’s education system isn’t a new thing as students have gone through many facets of Ed-Tech in recent times. Still, students in Bangladesh – who now need to embrace online classes due to the pandemic - are showing reluctance, while people in Bangladesh once used to admire online classes.
As the writer is also a university student and going through the phase of online classes, she has observed a few hilarious struggles that almost all the students are facing. Readers might also be able to find themselves in similar conditions.
Unintentional unmute and embarrassment
Online classes have spared the students from the struggle of getting ready for classes. Now they can do whatever they want by keeping the audio and video option off. But it won’t be surprising if someone relates it to the situation where they’re in their home-wear clothes, sitting or lying in bed in a relaxed, yet awkward, position, and suddenly by mistake, the video gets turned on; or even worse, when any of their family members is summoning the student in a weird, yet loud, tone; or there’s family chaos, and suddenly the student discovers that the sound wasn’t muted. What happens next is anybody’s guess. Yes, the entire class, including the teacher, got an earful of that too! Well, can it be any more embarrassing?
Being a sleepy-head is never a good idea!
Yawning continually during the class and sleeping isn’t a new thing for many of the students. But the problem is - there was always a friend (read guardian angel) who used to shake and wake sleepy-head friends whenever they sensed any incoming trouble in offline-classes. But in an online class, everybody is on their own! If the teacher is continuously calling out the student’s name without receiving any response, chances are it won’t exactly have a happy ending. Not to mention another common situation when a student is back from the dreamland by a short nap only to discover that the attendance is taken, resulting in a complete disaster! It’s basically waking up to a nightmare.
When screen sharing goes wrong!
Suppose there’s a presentation today, and all the students have to present their content by sharing screen through Zoom or Google Meet. A very common scenario is that they keep using other apps during the class opening several tabs. So, when suddenly they are summoned, it is very much possible that things get messed up with several open tabs; hence, even before the student knows it, the teacher is already looking at a shared screen that has no relation to the lecture topic.
The hardship of a backbencher
The struggles of backbenchers in online education are real. Neither they can gossip with their friends, nor can they take a little sneak peek of the topper classmate’s answer sheet during exams. Online classes indeed have taken away all the fun and colours of physically attending lectures, from backbenchers.
Shoebur Rahman Shanto, an undergraduate student at Dhaka University (DU) and a proud member of backbenchers’ society, states now classes are not the same as they used to be. “Poking friends, eating at the back while the teacher is giving lectures etc. can't be done online,” said Shanto with regret. Now all the classes seem dull, and the groups of backbenchers are spending their days with complete despair.
The ultimate struggles that require attention
Besides all these ‘funny for others’ and ‘embarrassing for own’ stuffs, there are still a few serious struggles that require attention from both the educational institutional authorities and government. Many students don’t have access to smartphones and fluid internet service, especially those who come from remote villages. As a result, not only is this socio-economic barrier causing frustration among students, but also subjecting the future of millions to uncertainty.
Dr Rafiuddin Ahmed, associate professor of marketing department at Dhaka University, thinks building an ecosystem may just do the trick. "To enable the students access to online classes, we can start by creating an ecosystem, where education ministry and institutions, legislators, ICT division, banks can each play a definitive role by aiding the ones in need," explains Mr Rafiuddin. Whether or not to create such an ecosystem is something policymakers should seriously think about. After months of online class, it is visible that the problems are there and yet to be addressed properly.
Fahmina Ahmed Papia is currently pursuing her BBA graduation at Dhaka University.