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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 298-300

E-learning: A key to sustain learning during COVID-19 pandemic

Department of Community Medicine, Velammal Medical College Hospital and Research Institute, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission11-May-2020
Date of Decision12-May-2020
Date of Acceptance19-May-2020
Date of Web Publication28-Jul-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Trupti Bodhare
Department of Community Medicine, Velammal Medical College Hospital and Research Institute, Anuppanadi, Madurai - 625 009, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijhas.IJHAS_104_20

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How to cite this article:
Bodhare T. E-learning: A key to sustain learning during COVID-19 pandemic. Int J Health Allied Sci 2020;9:298-300

How to cite this URL:
Bodhare T. E-learning: A key to sustain learning during COVID-19 pandemic. Int J Health Allied Sci [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Aug 20];9:298-300. Available from: https://www.ijhas.in/text.asp?2020/9/3/298/290704

On 11th March, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic and exhibits its deep concern regarding the alarming levels of spread and severity of infection.

With nine deaths and 468 COVID-19-positive cases in India, the national resolve of lockdown of the entire country was declared from 24rd March for intensifying the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating the spread of disease.

Before this resolve as a precautionary measure, all the schools and educational institutes were closed to prevent the spread of disease, and on 20th March, a directive from the ministry of human research department was issued to promote digital learning, so that the students can continue their learning.[1] Through this initiative, the ministry tried to mitigate the impact of lockdown on students' learning and has received an overwhelming response. Although initially the teaching–learning activities have been affected due to the closure of these educational institutes especially for the students of professional courses, it gradually resumed as educators started making use of information technology in most of the educational institutes.

Likewise, medical institutes have also been affected by this critical situation, and as a consequence, it has become rather uncertain when the institutes will able to resume classroom teaching and therefore medical teachers in these institutes started using information technology. These efforts have contributing greatly, meeting the needs of learners, and beginning to provide necessary educational support to the learners. Virtual classroom offers boundless possibilities for faculty and students. Sharing learning materials, displaying concepts or processes with clarity, tailoring instructions to learners' needs, practice skills in a safe environment, standardize assessment activities, above all it offers flexibility in time and space while ensuring self-regulatory learning. Also, today's learners are more tech-savvy and prefer technology-enhanced learning environment. Due to availability of smart phones, medical teachers also increasingly use technology in the teaching learning process. From a simple PowerPoint lecture presentation, to computer-aided instruction, virtual patient and human patient simulation technology offer various choices to enhance the learning experience. The scenario for assessment has also changed with electronic assessments and immediate feedbacks.[2]

In the widest sense, E-learning which is often referred to as online learning is the use of the Internet for education. However, this definition falls short of describing many distinctive characteristics and vital aspects of E-learning.

E-learning does not simply imply a transmission of documents in electronic format to students via the Internet; it includes a pedagogical approach that offers flexible, supportive, and engaging learning environment, promoting self-directed learning, focusing on learner' need and encouraging interaction, collaboration, and communication among the teachers and students to kindle a deeper understanding about the subject.[3]

E-learning can be broadly classified as synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous learning occurs in a virtual classroom when two or more people are communicating in real time. Synchronous E-learning includes online chats, video conferencing, and virtual classroom (ex. Class taken using Zoom). The important advantage of synchronous E-learning is that it allows learners and teachers to ask and answer questions immediately. Hence, rather than learning on their own, learners are able to interact with other learners and their teachers during the lesson.[4]

Asynchronous learning takes place outside of real time. In this type of E-learning, participants study at a time that is convenient for them, using technology such as E-mail, e-courses, online forums, prerecorded audio/video uploaded on various platforms such as YouTube and Google classroom. With asynchronous learning, learners will typically complete lessons on their own, using the internet as a support tool as opposed to taking part in online interactive classes.

The dilemma for the teachers is which technology to employ and how best to make use of it when employed. Strategic application of online tool should be based on learning objectives, number of learners, the needs and demands of learners, and the quality of their educational experience and availability of resources.

In India, few of the medical institutes are promoting E-learning and providing Learning Management System; however, it is not uniformly practiced. Medical teachers need to do a comprehensive overview of E-learning tools and technologies to understand pedagogical strategies for effective learning. There are many more E-learning tools being available and used by teachers. The following is brief explanation of some commonly used E-learning tools.

Google classroom: It is a free service, nonprofit organizations and anyone with a personal Google account can get the benefit of it. Google Classroom is a simple web app mostly used for creating assignments, submitting assignments, grading, and uploading prerecorded videos and other learning resources. It offers personalized learning and collaborative learning is missing.

Zoom: An educator has to sign up for an account for free. It is ideal for scheduling short meetings. Zoom offers a full-featured basic plan for free with unlimited meetings. The teacher can host a live class for 40 min for 100 participants. He/she can invite students to meetings through an invitation link sent to their E-mail. They can also join the meetings directly on the zoom application. Basic version allows educators to host unlimited number of meetings. However, recently few concerns have been raised regarding the privacy and security.

Google Meet: Google Meet is a tool on the web and video conferencing. It is the business-oriented version of Google's Hangouts platform. It allows users to dial in phone numbers to access meetings, thus enabling users with slow internet connection to call in. If the institute is having G suite, then Google Meet can be a good option as it is free. A faculty can invite up to 250 participants to join a class. The drawback of using Google Meet is presenter is having less autonomy like ending presentation, mute and unmute all and controlled share the screen.

Microsoft teams: It is a hub for teamwork in Microsoft 365. If a teacher is looking for something that has a combination of what both Zoom and Google Classroom offers then Microsoft Teams could be the choice. However, you need to have a paid version of office 365 and better and faster internet connection to enjoy live class.

GoToMeeting: It is an online meeting, desktop sharing, and video conferencing software package that enables the user to meet with other computer users, customers, clients, or colleagues via the Internet in real time.

Skype: Free voice conference calls allow up to 50 people to participate in a video or audio group call simultaneously.

A list of key digital/e-learning platforms which are provided by MHRD for online education is as under:

Swayam: The national online education platform hosting 1900 courses covering both schools(classes IX to XII) and higher education (undergraduate, postgraduate programs) in all subjects including engineering, humanities and social sciences, and law and management courses.[1]

SWAYAM PRABHA: It has 32 DTH TV channels transmitting educational contents and these channels are available for viewing all across the country using DD Free Dish Set Top Box and Antenna. The channel schedule and other details are available in the portal. The channels cover both school education (classes IX to XII) and higher education (undergraduate, postgraduate, engineering, out-of-school children, vocational courses, and teacher training) in arts, science, commerce, performing arts, social sciences and humanities subjects, engineering, technology, law, medicine, and agriculture.[1]

There are many more tools can be used for E-learning such as Cisco Webex, Namaste, Google hangouts, Duo, Discord, and WizIQ.

Apart from focusing on curricular outcome, social interactions must be an integral part of E-learning and efforts should be made for meaningful and appropriate socializing. This aspect of learning should not be overlooked; students should be encouraged to create an online support system for collaboration and growth. Opportunities for socializing should include interactions between teacher and student, student and student.

Eventually, educators need to decide about selection of E-learning tool in context to learning objectives, institutional strategy and resources, number of learners, and assessing learners need by obtaining feedback. So far, E-learning is not widely used platform by medical teachers; thus, this situation can be an opportunity for medical teachers to refine their technological skill to enhance learning among medical students. This approach to teaching-learning will enable learners to maintain social distancing by staying safe at their home during this critical situation.

In conclusion, medical teachers' community must explore various E-learning tools and technologies and utilize it effectively to incorporate the knowledge and skills among the students in the current distressing situation. The support from the institutions is crucial in refining teachers technological skills and inculcating the positive attitude among them. Eventually, it will lead to the development of effective teaching–learning system to sustain learning during this crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

COVID-19: STAY SAFE Digital Learning Initiatives of Ministry of HRD. Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/Covid19.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 09].  Back to cited text no. 1
Sharma N, Doherty I, Dong C. Adaptive Learning in Medical Education: The Final Piece of Technology Enhanced Learning? Ulster Med J 2017;86:198-200.  Back to cited text no. 2
Ellaway R, Masters K. AMEE Guide 32: E-Learning in medical education Part 1: Learning, teaching and assessment. Med Teach 2008;30:455-73.  Back to cited text no. 3
Davies J. Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynaecologists. Good practice Guide: eLearning. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/get-involved-in-our-work/elearning-good-practice-guide.pdf. [Last accessed on 2020 May 09].  Back to cited text no. 4


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