A whole new virtual world dominates society - GulfToday

A whole new virtual world dominates society


The pandemic quickened the rise of virtual learning and a disruption of the status quo.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly revolutionised the way of living in many parts of the world. There is no need to go to a shopping mall, everything can be ordered online.

There is no need for a cinema. Streaming platforms will unveil the latest celluloid presentations. There is no need to interact with friends, you can Zoom on them. There is even no need to go for a wedding. You can attend them — virtually. Which means just one thing: virtual reality is here to stay. Perhaps, for a long time.

In fact, everything is virtual, even education. The pandemic quickened the rise of virtual learning and a disruption of the status quo. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the sphere of educational institutions, which have opted to go online. Keeping the health of the students in mind, this preventive measure has become the new normal.

Schools, colleges and universities have ramped up their dependence on the Internet for academic fodder and interaction. This may seem like an enforced practice given the circumstances, but many students have got used to it. Though they could sorely miss the elements of campus life — interacting with friends and classmates, exchanging class notes, playing in the school or college grounds. Clearly, in these threatening coronavirus times, where life could hang by a thread given the severity of the case, health has taken precedence over everything else.

And students have got so used to studying from home that they would prefer staying put at their residence — rather than opt for a frustrating, isolated life in the campus, as is the case with some university students in England.

Take the case of Lois Lawn, for instance. After moving into university last year, Lawn decided to go back home in November and — two lockdowns later — is still there.

As England was sent into its third lockdown in early January, most students were told to stay put — while many were still at home for the Christmas holidays — and their teaching pushed online. Only those on certain courses, like medicine and dentistry, could continue with face-to-face classes.

But that is expected to change from next month, when all students on practical courses – like Lawn — are allowed to return to campus.

“I didn’t enjoy my experience when I first went,” the student at Surrey University told the Independent. “I’m quite nervous to go back because I don’t want it to be the same.”

She says she “hated” the weeks she spent on campus last term amid the pandemic, which led her to move back home in November.

Another student who has been at home for months is Luke Carter, a first year at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

He left his university flat — shared with one other person — to go home in October, as he was finding university life “very isolating”. There were not many opportunities to meet people and socialise, he says.

The first year he has been at home since, through two lockdowns and the Christmas holidays. He says he is in a “very lucky position” to be in a “decent home” where he can concentrate on work. “But obviously I would rather not be paying the rent for a place I’m not allowed to live in due to the government.”

That’s in England. But the need for online education is growing, and perhaps no other nation has paid so much attention to distance learning as the UAE.

Recently, the Ministry of Education in the UAE, in partnership with Etisalat and Google launched online education to develop hundreds of tutorials on YouTube aimed for Grade 11 and 12 students.

Duroosi (which means my studies in Arabic), is a YouTube channel with 600 tutorials, covering a variety of subjects based on the national curriculum, and intended to help families pare high costs of private tuitions. It is a wise move and like all measures this too will succeed.

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