The world is moving on and we too. India introduced information technology (IT – computers and internet) in governance and is now pressing the throttle on it. IT is already a mission critical enabler in the corporate sector. Therefore, its limping status in the world of education, particularly in the rural areas is a bit of harassment. It should quickly catch up with the others.
Drivers and Dampers
One may ask whether it is due to the lack of awareness of older teachers, lack of funds, absence of electricity, unreliability of knowledge databases that are held online, or simply lack of government initiative. The students are already using computers, internet and mobiles in day-to-day life. Unless we start using computers in schools, we will never know what we really want out of them.
Yes, some institutes have adopted distance learning, but this is for reducing their permanent expenses on teacher salaries rather than for providing quality and flexible education for the students. Bright students, who fail to cross the obstacles of reservations, may be compelled to choose on line education. They could very easily do it for informal professions or vocations; areas where certification or degrees are not required. Who knows it might become a blessing in disguise. Who knows, the government may become lenient, driven by the volume of illiteracy rather than by their own initiative, in allowing examinations, certifications, valediction etc for on-line studies. But these should not become the drivers for on-line education.
One could present an argument that on-line education needs intensive investments, but if Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister in UP can spare 1.5 million laptops for the students, where is the hitch then. Recently, there was an amusing cartoon of a female teacher coming to the CM to get the laptop battery charged, because there was no electricity in the village for many days.
How to Deploy Computers for Education
In the USA, some new initiatives have been experimented with, and with astounding success. The K-8 and K-12 programs are the online versions of education for the Kindergarten to 8th or 12th year of education. K-8 is a bit state oriented, but K-12 is universal. The well-recognised features and advantages of these programs are as follows
- Anyone irrespective of age or qualification can get registered
- Subjects can be selected at will, and a package created for himself by the individual
- The system is highly standardized and well regulated by the authorities
- Learning is individualized or customized for individual student, and has an individual learning plan
- Pool of certified and motivated teachers, who can operate from within the confines of their homes, is made available
- Home environment suits all, the teacher, taught and the parent. At high school level students are more independent and self-serving therefore they are serviced accordingly
- The system incorporates, in person events for social interaction, and it needs interaction with other non-computerised systems
- Students are already familiar with facebook, pinterest, twitter and other social networks. Instead of wasting time therein, time can be utilised for learning. One cannot deny that being on the networking sites delivers knowledge, even to elders.
- On-line learning may have social inadequacies, how to tackle these may be a challenge but innovation and creativity can turn it around.
- In fact, more time is available for social and sports activities because the travel times are reduced and the process of learning is optimised for efforts.
- It is certainly a workaround for the handicaps propped up by reservations
On line Knowledge Databases
If the formal education systems are to depend on the computerised knowledge databases, then it is only imperative that these databases are authenticated and certified. The domain knowledge on the databases must be prepared by a team of qualified teachers or professors through an organised process. If authentic databases are available, and interactive webinars  are conducted by competent teachers, probably from a central remote location, there may not remain any inhibition using computers on line for formal education.
 A webinar is a seminar conducted on the World Wide Web using the Internet, where numerous participants from all over the world can interact with the presenter as if they were all sitting in one room.